EGG / URIEL / ARZACHEL - archive releases (Egg Archive / Burning Shed)

Release date : December 2007
Dave Stewart (o/elp/p/tone-gen/hpcd/celeste) - Mont Campbell (b/voc) - Clive Brooks (d)
with Steve Hillage (most of the Arzachel CD) - guest: Amanda Parsons (voc [7])
Rec: 24 Jul 1969 [1/2/11], 5 Dec 1971 [12], 22 Feb 1972 [3/10], 13 Mar 1972 [4/7], 9 Jul 1972 [5/6/8/9] - Loc: Playhouse Theatre, London [1/2/11], BBC Maida Vale 4 [3/10], BBC Maida Vale 5 [4/7], Roundhouse, London [5/6/8/9] & Civic Hall, Wolverhampton [12] - Eng: Dave Carruthers [5/6/8/9], Bob Conduct [3/4/10] - Pr: Pete Ritzema [1/2/11]
Tracks: 1. While Growing My Hair (Top Gear '69) [MC] (3:46) - 2. Seven Is A Jolly Good Time (Top Gear '69) [MC/DS] (3:09) - 3. Germ Patrol (Top Gear '72) [MC/DS] (5:34) - 4. Enneagram (Sounds Of The 70s '72) [MC] (8:51) - 5. Long Piece No.3 (Part 2) (live '72) [MC] (9:02) - 6. Long Piece No.3 (Part 4) (live '72) [MC] (3:12) - 7. There's No Business Like Show Business (Sounds Of The 70s '72) [I.Berlin] (3:16) - 8. Blane Over Camden (live '72) [DS] (4:26) - 9. Long Piece No.3 (Part 3) (live '72) [MC] (6:48) - 10. Wring Out The Ground (Loosely Now) (Top Gear '72) [MC] (8:02) - 11. McGillicudie The Pusillanimous (Top Gear '69) [MC] (5:00) - 12. I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside (live '71) [Glover-Kind] (0:42)

Comments : Hot on the heels of the Hatfield archive projects, Dave Stewart has applied the same regal treatment to his previous band Egg and come up with these two superb CDs and lengthy accompanying extra booklet. The incentive for the whole project was a reissue of the out-of-print Arzachel album. Recorded in mid-1969 by what amounted to a re-formed Uriel, the pre-Egg quartet that also included Steve Hillage on guitar, this effort is rated highly by aficionados of vintage psychedelia (for whom its very dated production values are probably a plus), and is certainly a fun listen (in an early Caravan sort of way) if nowhere near as accomplished, from a "progressive" standpoint, as Egg's groundbreaking works. This reissue comes with a handful ofextra tracks : previously unheard Uriel demos from 1968/69, including a cover of Holst's "Saturn" and the earliest original compositions by Mont Campbell and Dave Stewart. Plus a frustratingly short snippet of an early live performance (apparently that's the only surviving such document). Of higher historical than musical value, but an interesting document for sure.

The other CD, The Metronomical Society, is on the other a compulsory purchase for any self-respecting Canterbury- and RIO-inclined prog fan. This is all previously unreleased stuff - not only unreleased but also, for the most part, unheard. Indeed, while the main raison-d'être of this project was to offer the (arguably superior) 1972 BBC versions of the three main pieces from Civil Surface ("Enneagram", "Germ Patrol" and "Wring Out..."), these were familiar to most collectors, albeit in inferior sonic quality than the versions collected here ("Enneagram" in particular sounds superb), the 1969 Top Gear session (three songs and twelve minutes) was until now thought lost by many, and a recently discovered amateur (but surprisingly excellent sounding) live recording of the band's final concert (Roundhouse, July 1972) is the icing on the cake - an epic rendition of "Long Piece No.3" complete with its wild "Blane" interlude - 23 minutes of vintage live Egg. All in all this contains some of the very best performances by the band, and is a must-own.

What makes the purchase of these CDs even more compulsory is, as usual, the accompanying prose. Here it's a magnum opus of its own. In addition to the two 20-page CD booklets comes an additional book entitled Copious Notes (note that there is little or no overlap between the three), subtitled "The inside story of Egg, Uriel, Arzachel & The Ottawa Company", and consisting of incredibly detailed memoirs by Dave Stewart, Mont Campbell and Antony Vinall, a friend of the band who evidently survived the era and subsequent decades with his memory intact. It also includes many vintage photos which beg the question "where did all that hair go ?". In Dave's words (which I'll happily second), "probably the closest you can get to experiencing the sights, sounds, smells and sensations of our corner of the experimental/underground UK music scene of the late '60s". Great stuff !

Theo TRAVIS - Double Talk (33 Records)

Release date : December 2007
Theo Travis (ss [1]/ts [2]/fl [2]/cl [2]) - Pete Whittaker [1-3/5-8] (o) - Mike Outram [1-3/6-8](elg) - Roy Dodds [1-3/5-8] (d/pc)
guest: Robert Fripp (soundscapes [2/4]/g [4/5])
Rec: 9-10 Apr 2007 [1-3/6-8], Jan-May 2007 [4-5] - Loc: Koolworld, Luton [1-3/6-8], DGM Soundworld, Wiltshire, Windmill Lane, Belper, Koolworld & Roy's Place [4-5] - Eng: Dave Wooster, with David Singleton, Dave Sturt - Pr: Theo Travis, with Roy Dodds [1-3/6-8] & Dave Sturt [4-5]
Tracks: 1. Ascending [TT] (9:41) - 2. Oblivionville (incoporating The Last Day - Open Earth - A Return) [TT] (16:19) - 3. The Relegation Of Pluto [TT] (7:23) - 4. The Endless Search [TT/R.Fripp] (6:11) - 5. Pallendream [TT] (5:46) - 6. See Emily Play [S.Barrett] (4:39) - 7. And So It Seemed [TT] (10:45) - 8. Portobello 67 [TT] (5:35)

Comments : This latest offering from Theo Travis, an honorary member (at the very least) of the Canterbury scene as a result of his involvement with Gong, Soft Machine Legacy and Richard Sinclair, is imbued with a distinct flavour because of its instrumental set-up of electric guitar, Hammond organ and drums. In contrast to his previous effort Earth To Ether, where flute was dominant, Theo mostly plays saxes, and while the resulting sonic texture is almost "classic jazz", there is still a contemporary edge thanks to the use of adventurous structures (as in the epic, 3-part "Oblivionville"), the references to rock (yet another great cover - after "21st Century Schizoid Man", this time it's Pink Floyd's "See Emily Play") and the presence of Robert Fripp (soundscapes and guitar) on three tracks, one of which he receives joint writing credit for. Added to Theo's inspired, melodic playing, this makes Double Talk another winner from the British saxman.

Steve MILLER & Lol COXHILL - complete works (Cuneiform)

Release date : May 2007
Musicians: Lol Coxhill (ss/as/pc) - Steve Miller (p/elp/pc)
with: Phil Miller (g [CD1>2/4/9-11]) - Richard Sinclair (b [CD1>2/4/CD2>15]/voc [CD1>10/11]) - Pip Pyle (d [CD1>2/4/9-11]) - Archie Legget (b [CD1>3/CD2>8/9/11]) - Roy Babbington (b [CD1>9-11]), Laurie Allan (pc [CD1>3/CD2>3/5/7]/d [CD2>8/9/15])
Rec: Apr-Nov 1972 [CD1>1-8], 23 Nov 1972 [CD1>9-11], 21 Oct 1972 [CD1>12-13/CD2>1-2], 1973/74 [CD2>3-10/12-14], Oct 1973 [CD2>11], 9 Dec 1974 [15] - Loc: Mushroom Studios, Chalk Farm, London [CD1>1-9], Playhouse Theatre, London [CD1>9-11], Nijmegen (Netherlands) [CD1>12-13/CD2>1-2], private recordings [CD2>3-14], Kaleidophon Studios, London [CD2>11], London College Of Printing [CD2>15] - Eng: Vic Keary [CD1>1-8], David Vorhaus [CD2>11] - Pr: Lol Coxhill & Steve Miller
Tracks: [CD1] 1. Chocolate Field [SM] (9:03) - 2. One For You [SM] (7:34) - 3. Portland Bill [SM/LC] (6:19) - 4. Will My Thirst Play Me Tricks? The Ant About To Be Crushed Ponders Not The Wherewithal Of Bootleather [SM/LC] (4:42) - 5. Maggots [LC] (1:18) - 6. Bath '72 [LC] (7:13) - 7. Wimbledon Baths [LC] (2:28] - 8. Gog Ma Gog [SM] (8:38) // 9. Betty (You Pays Your Money, You Takes Your Chances) [SM/R.Sinclair] (6:19) - 10. God Song [P.Miller/R.Wyatt] (7:06) - 11. Bossa Nochance / Big Jobs [R.Sinclair] (6:08) - 12. Big Jobs No. 2 [R.Sinclair] (4:09) - 13. God Song [P.Miller] (2:08) // [CD2] 1. Chocolate Field [SM] (3:10) - 2. One For You [SM] (5:19) - 3. G-Song [SM] (2:16) - 4. F-Bit [SM] (4:50) - 5. Songs Of March [SM] (3:17) - 6. More G-Songs [SM] (3:46) - 7. Does This [SM] (3:55) - 8. The Greatest Off-Shore Race In The World (From The Film Of The Same Name) [LC] (4:06) - 9. Reprise For Those Who Prefer It Slower [LC] (1:52) - 10. Tubercular Balls [LC] (0:22) - 11. Soprano Derivato [LC] / Apricot Jam [K.Ayers] (6:18) - 12. Oh, Do I Like To Be Beside The Seaside [LC] (6:54) - 13. In Memoriam: Meister Eckhart (From The Welfare State Epic Of The Same Name Starring Randolph Scott) [LC] (8:41) - 14. A Fabulous Comeidna [LC] (0:39) // 15. Coo-Coo-Ka-Chew [SM/LC/R.Sinclair/L.Allan] (23:23)

Comments : Out-of print on vinyl for over 25 years, this is the first CD release of the two album collaborations (Coxhill/Miller Miller/Coxhill and "The Story So Far..." "Oh Really?") between saxist Lol Coxhill and pianist Steve Miller, who first worked together in Delivery and continued their partnership for several years afterwards. These albums are quite fondly remembered by those luckily enough to own them for their unique personality and low-key approach to improvisation and composition and feature guests such as Phil Miller, Richard Sinclair, Pip Pyle, Archie Legget, Laurie Allan and Robert Wyatt. Produced, remastered and with liner notes by Michael King, the material is presented in the absolute best possible sonics. We've also included the last known interview with Steve to help shed light on his career and found some great, rare photos to include in the huge, 20 page booklet. In addition to the albums there is almost an hour of previously unreleased and unheard material. Of particular interest is 20' of material by the proto-Hatfield and the North lineup of Delivery: Steve Miller, Lol Coxhill, Phil Miller, Pip Pyle, Richard Sinclair and Roy Babbington, as well as four short, terrific solo tracks by Steve and a 25' live improvisation by Steve, Lol, Richard Sinclair and Laurie Allan from December, 1974!

Hugh HOPPER - Hoppertunity Box (Cuneiform)

Release date : January 2007
Musicians: Hugh Hopper (b/ss [2]/g [3]/rec [1]/pc [6])
with: Elton Dean (as/saxello [4/6/8]) - Mark Charig (cornet [4]/tenor hn [6/8]) - Dave Stewart (o [1/3/7]/elp [1]/pianet [7]) - Gary Windo (ts [2/5]/bcl [6]) - Frank Roberts (elp [4/5/8]) - Mike Travis (d [1/2/3/4/5/8]) - Nigel Morris (d [7]) - Richard Brunton (g [2/5])
Rec: 8-21 May & Jul 1976 - Loc: Mobile Mobile (England) - Eng: Mike Dunne - Pr: Mike Dunne/Hugh Hopper
Tracks: 1. Hopper Tunity Box [HH] (3:34) - 2. Miniluv [HH] (3:32) - 3. Gnat Prong [HH] (7:56) - 4. The Lonely Sea And The Sky [HH] (6:31) - 5. Crumble [HH] (3:56) - 6. Lonely Woman [O.Coleman] (3:20) - 7. Mobile Mobile [HH] (5:01) - 8. Spanish Knee [HH] (3:48) - 9. Oyster Perpetual [HH] (3:10)

Comments : Freshly remastered from the master tapes and issued on CD from the master tapes for the first time, this was the second solo album by Soft Machine bassist and composer Hugh Hopper. This was Hugh's second solo album and his first solo album after leaving Soft Machine. In my fan-boy opinion, it is one of the best records Hugh's ever made and is a fine and distinctively unusual progressive/fusion album that has all the compositional and performance twists and oddities that make it distinctly Hugh's. Originally released in 1977 on the Compendium label, it highlights Hugh's quirky compositional sense and trademarked fuzzbass/looping/lead bass stylings with stunningly great contributions from Richard Brunton-guitar, Elton Dean-alto sax and saxello, Mark Charig-cornet, Nigel Morris-drums, Frank Roberts-electric piano, Dave Stewart-organ, pianet, oscillators, Mike Travis-drums and Gary Windo-bass clarinet and saxes. There were no outtakes or additions to add to this reissue, but Hugh did contribute new notes that tell the story of the making of this album and he gave us reproductions of some of the musical scores for the booklet. An absolutely essential album that I've been pestering Hugh to allow us to release for well over a decade! This is a lost jazz/rock classic that demands to be rediscovered 30 years later! The original lp had a skip in the middle of one of Elton's wonderful solos and the only previous CD version was recorded off of a vinyl record and had the same skip! This is the first time this album has been released on CD with the care that it deserves. Don't miss it!


SOFT MACHINE - remasters (Sony)

Release date : February 19th, 2007

Comments : Soft Machine devotees have been waiting a long time for remastered versions of the band's classic albums, which the original CBS/Sony reissues definitely weren't, although in the cases of 4 / 5 and 6 / 7 the sonic issue at least was addressed by the excellent 1999 two-on-one reissues in the Columbia/Rewind series. The release of a two-CD anthology Out-Bloody-Rageous in 2005 was the next step, with the involvement of the same team (Mark Powell - tape research, liner notes etc. / Paschal Byrne - remastering) that brought us (to speak only of the Canterbury-related ones) the Caravan, Kevin Ayers, Egg and Khan remasters (and more recently the Steve Hillage Virgin catalogue - see below). Now here come all the individual CBS albums by Soft Machine in their hopefully definitive incarnations.

To be honest, one can't help but feel disappointed hearing the remastered Third. While the improvement from previous reissues is notable, it didn't entirely get rid of the album's production shortcomings, which are huge. Evidently, there's only so much that can be done with current technology to make it sound better. Copious saturation, extreme compression, antiquated stereo panning... far from the timeless sound one would expect from this classic album. Well, at least, the music is still as good. From the creative improvisation and innovative tape collages of "Facelift" to the ultimate pop epic with avant-garde coda that is "Moon In June", through Mike Ratledge's memorable compositional tours-de-force "Slightly All The Time" and "Out-Bloody-Rageous", this is Soft Machine at their Canterbury best : having clearly entered the realm of contemporary electric jazz, but still maintaining a pop sensibility - catchy themes, lyrical solo excursions, otherworldly atmospheres and a general sense of the band taking the listener along on a fascinating musical journey... Given the lack of outtakes from the sessions, the bonus disc offers a contemporary live performance by the band - sadly not a previously unheard one, but the classic Live At The Proms concert from August 1970. Once the initial technical malfunctions had been corrected, this was a fine performance, fed by the extra tension of having to finish within the time constraints of a televised programme.

While "Moon In June" harked back to the poppier direction of Volume Two, Fourth dismissed it altogether in favour of further exploring the instrumental direction pursued on the other sides of Third, and did it very successfully indeed. On much of the album the quartet is augmented by various guest instrumentalists - Roy Babbington's excellent double bass playing, and assorted horn players (Nick Evans, Mark Charig, Jimmy Hastings and Alan Skidmore) in a virtual recreation of the magnificent septet line-up of late 1969. The opening "Teeth" is everything the septet had promised it would be, and is perhaps Mike Ratledge's crowning achievement as a composer. But Fourth also marks the apex of Hugh Hopper's compositional contribution to Soft Machine, with the gorgeous ballad "Kings And Queens" and the sidelong "Virtually", an exercise in thematic deconstructivism and atmospheres that simply sounds like nobody else. Lastly, Elton Dean's "Fletcher Blemish" is a mitigated attempt at introducing free music into Soft Machine's musical palette - interestingly, while it seems at odds with the direction pursued by Mike Ratledge on "Teeth", Ratledge was soon to adopt this minimalist direction as his own, as exemplified by the next album, Fifth.

The first post-Wyatt Soft Machine album, Fifth marks a further decisive step towards musical asceticism. Under the influence of contemporary American electric jazz by the likes of Miles Davis and Weather Report, the band used rough sketches of themes and modal improvisation over repetitive bass lines as the basis for their music. The choice of Phil Howard (drummer with Elton Dean's own free-jazz group) as replacement for Wyatt only added to the general austerity, to the point that Mike Ratledge and Hugh Hopper decided this was perhaps a little too much and opted for a less radical drummer in the excellent John Marshall, formerly of Nucleus and the Jack Bruce Band, who was to remain a fixture of the band through all its latter-day incarnations. Marshall played on the second side of Fifth, which didn't negate the first - it just wasn't quite as loose. Again, Roy Babbington guested for a memorable bowed bass solo on "As If", and a nod to the more melodic direction of Third was present in "Pigling Bland", originally composed by Ratledge for the septet as a new ending to "Esther's Nosejob". Fifth is the only reissue in the series to offer a session outtake - an alternake take of "All White", which provides an interesting contrast to the album version : the main body of the piece is similar, but while the latter began with a solo, echo-treated improvisation by Elton Dean, this one kicks off with a drum solo by Phil Howard.

By Six, Elton Dean too had jumped ship and Karl Jenkins replaced him, bringing with him his compositional as well as playing skills. In his less inspired moments, this sometimes meant generic fusion riffing vehicles, and his soloing on oboe and soprano sax was something of an acquired taste, but Jenkins did add a melodic sensibility which had been missing since Ratledge's volte-face into freer territory. Both keyboard players also shared an interest in repetitive music, which resulted in the rewarding experiments of "The Soft Weed Factor" and "Chloe And The Pirates" (the latter graced by a dual, backward/forward theme, both equally beautiful). A double-album, Six also offered a live set from the Autumn 1972 tour. The version of Fifth's "All White" which opened it showed how much Soft Machine had again reinvented itself in the months since its previous album. Catchy themes and inspired soloing with rock-solid rhythm section work make for a very pleasant listening experience if one can overcome the fact that overall, the music is far less unique, thought-provoking and soulful that that of the band's "classic" line-up.

Like Fourth was to the instrumental sides of Third, Seven is largely a refinement of Six, with more concise compositions and varied instrumentation - Ratledge adds synthesizer to his keyboard setup, Jenkins solos on recorder (!) and Roy Babbington (who has, quite logically, replaced Hugh Hopper on bass) on bowed bass on "Down The Road". Favourites include Ratledge's "Day's Eye" (even though it's a clear ripoff of John McLaughlin's "Arjen's Bag" from Extrapolation) and Jenkins' "Block", both of which feature Ratledge's trademark fuzz organ. An almost perfect album in its chosen stylistic position, which doesn't mean it's Soft Machine's masterpiece, but certainly one of the better jazz-rock efforts of its time.

All the albums come with a booklet of photos (some previously unseen) and biographical notes, which are competent enough with rather less factual mistakes than usual (one, sadly repeated by cut-and-paste, is dating the recording of Elton Dean's first solo album to May 1970 rather than 1971). The one regrettable, and frankly almost inexcusable, blunder comes with the instrument credits for Third - not only is Elton Dean credited only with alto sax (where's the saxello ?) but he is relegated to the bottom of the list of 'secondary' contributors, separated from the "main trio". The original album named all musicians in one category, which wasn't quite fair either (for instance Nick Evans only plays about twenty seconds on the entire album), but why change it to an even less accurate version ? Apart from that, though, a good job.

Steve HILLAGE - remasters (I) (Virgin/EMI)

Release date : January 15th, 2007

Comments : There was little about the original CD reissues of Steve Hillage's Virgin albums you could say in their favour. The "remastering" was a hasty, substandard affair, and the booklets and general packaging were simply an insult - several of the albums didn't even have proper musicians credits. Fifteen years later, time has finally come to right these wrongs, and for this we again have to thank the duo of Mark Powell and Paschal Byrne. The albums come with faithful, non-cropped reproductions of the original covers, and significantly improved sound quality. I have some reservations about the layout of the booklets, which could have done with a little proofreading - a lot of information, particularly about the bonus tracks, is either repeated or ends up contradicting itself.

The positive, however, vastly outweighs the negative. It's a great pleasure to finally hear Fish Rising in all its glory, with the power rhythm section of Mike Howlett and Pierre Moerlen as well as the superb embellishments by Tim Blake and Dave Stewart, among others, given some welcome extra sonic polish. Hillage's solo debut is a classic of both space/psych and Canterbury/progressive music. A significant part of the material - "Solar Musick Suite" in particular - was reworked from the aborted second Khan album, while a track like "Aftaglid" clearly drew from Gong's expansive musical horizons. All in all, this remains a very strong and individual musical statement that still rates as most fans' favourite solo album from the guitarist. The reissue adds the instrumental 'power trio' demo of "Aftaglid" and, even more importantly perhaps, the album outtake "Pentagrammaspin", a shortened and approximately mixed version of which had appeared on the Virgin "V" compilation; it is here restored to its full length (almost 8 minutes) and remixed to Steve's satisfaction, and fits in well, style- and quality-wise, with the rest of the album. Because of time limitations, the "power trio" demo of "Salmon Song" has been included on Motivation Radio, which turns out to be musically appropriate, as its harder-rocking nature matches the general atmosphere of that album.

Steve's second album, 1976's L, was partly a continuation of the epic direction, with tracks such as "Lunar Musick Suite" and "Hurdy Gurdy Glissando", while paying tribute to some of his teenage influences with successful cover versions of Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man" and the Beatles' "It's All Too Much". A session outtake reveals that Steve had also attempted to cover The Byrds' "Eight Miles High", which appears here as an instrumental backing track. In contrast with the Gong-like vibe of Fish Rising, Steve's decision to use Todd Rundgren's Utopia as backing band gives this album a harder edge and distinctly less dreamy, 'British' atmosphere, while retaining the defining characteristics of his early solo work. This is the album that established Hillage as a solo performer and "guitar-hero" in his native country. Bonus tracks on the reissue include the Hillage/Blake collaboration "Shimmer" and an early version of "Palm Trees".

In the liner notes for Motivation Radio, Hillage explains the reasons for the album's more concise direction to the critical reception of the original Steve Hillage Band on its debut American tour in early 1977. His music, he explains, was improperly labelled as an example of "British prog rock". The result was a third album that clearly evaded that label, with shorter, sparser, funkier and more vocal-oriented tracks and a severe cut on his trademark instrumental excursions. While a number of tracks have a certain appeal, this is clearly my least favourite of Hillage's solo albums - thankfully, his next effort, Green, would prove a triumphant return to his more adventurous, delightfully 'escapist' original style.

The fourth album in this first batch of reissues is not Green, but its follow-up, Rainbow Dome Musick. I have a very soft spot for this one, an exercise in electronic textures that hasn't aged one bit in nearly three decades. A purely instrumental and atmospheric variation on the "otherworldly" dimension of Hillage's music, it makes excellent use of analog synthesizers, glissando guitars, and other assorted instruments. One side is Hillage's baby, the other his partner Miquette Giraudy's, but they form a cohesive whole, which provided the blueprint for some of their later work in the ambient style. A masterpiece of the new-age idiom, No bonus tracks on this one, although an alternate mix of part of "Four Ever Rainbow" appears, oddly enough, on the reissue of Open, in the second batch.

MATCHING MOLE - On The Radio (Hux Records)

Release date : January 30th, 2007
Musicians: Robert Wyatt (d/voc [2/5]) - Phil Miller (g) - Dave MacRae (elp) - Bill MacCormick (b) - Dave Sinclair (o [2/5])
Rec: 17 Jan 1972 [2/5], 6 Mar 1972 [3/4], 17 Apr 1972 [1], 27 Jul 1972 [6-10] - Loc: Kensington House [1], Playhouse Theatre [2/5], Maida Vale Studios [3/4], Paris Theatre [6-10], London - Eng: Nick Gomm [1], Bob Conduct [2/5] - Pr: John Walters [1/2/5], John Muir [3/4], Jeff Griffin [6-10]
Tracks: 1. Marchides [DMacR] / Instant Pussy [RW] / Smoke Signal [DMacR] (20:33) - 2. Part Of The Dance [PM] (7:56) - 3. No 'Alf Measures [K.Ayers arr RW] (6:49) - 4. Lything And Gracing [PM] (7:19) - 5. Immediate Kitten [RW] (9:59) - 6. Instant Pussy [RW] (3:17) - 7. Lything And Gracing [PM] (3:13) - 8. Marchides [DMacR] (10:30) - 9. Part Of The Dance [PM] (7:29) - 10. Brandy As In Benj [DMacR] (0:48)

Comments : Yet another Matching Mole archive CD, this is actually a glorified reissue of Windsong's (long out-of-print) 1994 CD BBC Live In Concert, which makes up the second half of this CD (sadly, the appalling indexing of the original remains, although this doesn't really detract from the continuous listening experience). Part of the other material, taken from BBC radio sessions, has been heard before (on Smoke Signal and the Robert Wyatt Flotsam & Jetsam compilation), leaving tracks 2 and 5 the only previously unreleased material on the CD. But they alone make it a must-own since these 18 minutes are the only document other than Matching Mole's debut album to feature the original line-up with Dave Sinclair on organ (and Dave MacRae helping out on piano) - spirited renditions of "Part Of The Dance" and "Immediate Kitten" (actually a medley of "Instant Kitten" and "Dedicated To Hugh..."). The beautifully designed package includes in-depth liner notes by Bill MacCormick, who concludes by writing: "Robert thinks this album most perfectly encapsulates what Matching Mole was about. I reckon he's right". There you go.

SOFT MOUNTAIN - s/t (Hux Records)

Release date : January 30th, 2007
Musicians: Elton Dean (as/saxello) - Hoppy Kamiyama (kb) - Hugh Hopper (b) - Tatsuya Yoshida (d)
Rec: 10 Aug 2003 - Loc: Gok Studio, Tokyo (Japan)
Tracks: 1. Soft Mountain Suite Pt. 1 (30:40) - 2. Soft Mountain Suite Pt. 2 (27:55)

Comments : The one-time pairing of the classic Soft Machine pair of Elton Dean and Hugh Hopper with two of the great contemporary Japanese mavericks - keyboard player Hoppy Kamiyama and drummer extraordinaire Tatsuya Yoshida. One hour of totally spontaneous, uncompromising Canterbury-meets-Japan music...

PANZERPAPPA - Koralrevens Klagesang (Hangar B)

Release date : November 2006
Steinar Børve (as/kb/pc/voc) - Jarle G. Storlœkken (g/acc/bjo/voc) - Anders Kristian Krabberød (b/stick/acg/kb/voc) - Trond Gjellum (d/pc/kb/melodica/g/voc)
guest: Richard Sinclair (voc [7]) - Trond Borgen (tb [1/2]) - Ole Magnus N. Ekeberg (tub [1/2]) - Christine Gullhav (fl [3/6/8]/bcl [6]/cl [9]) - Ola Lindh (vib [3/4]) - Thomas Meidell (saw [4]) - Anders Tomasgaard (tpt [1/2]) - Jon Wesseltoft [syn [8]) - Morten Westerfjell (fhn [1/2])
Rec: Jul 2005-Jun 2006 [RS rec Sep 2005] - Loc: Avant Audio, Oslo (Norway) - Eng/Pr: Panzerpappa
Tracks: 1. Korallrevens Klagesang I [TG arr AKK/Panzerpappa] (2:43) - 2. Korallrevens Klagesang II [TG/SB] (4:54) - 3. Kantonesisk Kanotur [SB] (9:12) - 4. Apraxia [AKK/SB arr Panzerpappa] (3:26) - 5. Snill Sang På Bånd [TG/SB] (5:59) - 6. Etyde [JS] (6:19) - 7. Vintervake [SB] (5:35) - 8. Frenetisk Frenologi (For Nybegynnere) [Panzerpappa] (14:15) - 9. Korallrevens Klagesang III [TG/SB] (2:48)

Comments : The presence of Richard Sinclair's guest vocals on one track of this album is enough to change its status from "Canterbury-influenced band" to "almost part of the family". Panzerpappa is an excellent Norwegian progressive band which has drawn favourable comparisons, from no less than the famously picky Chris Cutler, to the likes of National Health and Miriodor, and I think this is an apt description of where they stand and how well they do what they do. This is their second proper album although the first had been preceded by two full-length CD demos. On this one they have abandoned all attempts at reflecting their quartet live sound, instead enriching their instrumentation with assorted percussion, horns and - as mentioned above - vocals. The results are very impressive indeed, as the extra sonic colours are used tastefully. My personal favourite is the epic "Frenetisk Frenologi" which is group-credited and does appear to feed from everyone's personality yet fuse them into a cohesive whole. Complex yet melodic, and faultlessly performed, a rare example of a current band reviving the best tradition of 1970s Canterbury/progressive rock.

Phil MILLER / IN CAHOOTS - Conspiracy Theories (Crescent Discs)

Release date : October 2006
Phil Miller (g/g-syn) - Peter Lemer (kb) - Fred Baker (b) - Mark Fletcher (d/pc)
with: Didier Malherbe (ss [1/2/6/8]/fl [4/5]/doudouk [2]/ocarina [7]) - Simon Picard (ts [1/3/4/8]) - Simon Finch (tpt/fghn [2/4/6/8/9]) - Annie Whitehead (tb [1-2/4/6/8/9]) - Doug Boyle (g [4]) - Richard Sinclair (b [9]) - Dave Stewart (xyl [4]) - Barbara Gaskin (bv [4])
Rec: Nov 2004 [+1998-2006] - Loc: Eastcote Studios, London [overdubs: Crescent Studios, London] - Eng: Philip Bagenal [& Phil Miller] - Mix: Benji Lefevre - Pr: Phil Miller
Tracks: 1. Conspiracy Theories [PM] (7:07) - 2. Press Find Enter [PM] (8:40) - 3. Flashpoint [PM] (5:54) - 4. 5s & 7s [PM] (8:11) - 5. End Of The Line [FB] (11:03) - 6. Freudian Triode [PM] (10:18) - 7. Orinaca [PL] (5:44) - 8. Crackpot [PM] (7:59) - 9. Lydiotic [PM] (8:39)

Comments : Two years in the making, the follow-up to 2003's All That, with the same rhythm section of Lemer-Baker-Fletcher but with plenty of new faces to replace the departed Dean-Dvorak frontline - not just Simon Picard and Simon Finch who played on the band's recent gigs. Didier Malherbe makes a welcome and very substantial contribution, appearing on most tracks either on soprano sax or flute (and even doudouk and ocarina), his first collaboration with Phil since Short Wave in the 1990s. Also enjoyable are cameos by Doug Boyle, Richard Sinclair and Dave Stewart [on tuned percussion!], making this Miller's most varied release in a long time. Compositionally this has all the trademarks of his unique style, reaching an unprecedented level of sophistication in the multi-section (and evocatively titled) "5s & 7s", which was recorded and overdubbed over a period of nearly a decade ! Another strong release that will appeal to fans of Canterbury-style melodic jazz-fusion.

SOFT MACHINE - Middle Earth Masters (Cuneiform Records)

Release date : September 2006
Kevin Ayers (voc/b/g) - Mike Ratledge (o/p) - Robert Wyatt (d/voc)
Rec: 16 Sep 1967 [1-8], May 1968 [9-10], Oct 1967 [11] - Loc: Middle Earth, Covent Garden, London [1-8], Roundhouse, London [9-10], TV Studios, Paris (France) [11] - Eng: Bob Woolford [1-10]
Tracks: 1. Clarence In Wonderland [KA] (4:33) - 2. Soon Soon Soon [KA] (3:02) - 3. Bossa Nova Express [KA] (2:39) - 4. Hope For Happiness [B.Hopper arr KA/MR/RW] (13:19) - 5. Disorganization [MR] (6:03) - 6. We Did It Again [KA] (5:48) - 7. Why Are We Sleeping ? [KA/MR/RW] (6:18) - 8. I Should've Known [H.Hopper] (9:47) - 9. That's How Much I Need You Now [RW] (2:20) - 10. I Should've Known [H.Hopper] (6:44) - 11. A Certain Kind [H.Hopper] (3:46)

Comments : Technically, a lot of the music on this CD has already been "heard". But note the quotes around "heard". Early live recordings of Soft Machine typically have horrible sound, mostly because of multi-generation quality loss, but also because of the limitations of the technology used back then. This release of a famous Middle Earth performance by the "original" Soft Machine trio is taken from Bob Woolford's original masters, lovingly remastered and edited by Mike King. The result sounds infinitely better than, say, the versions on the Turns On compilations - but they don't exactly sound "great". Don't buy this to hear Robert Wyatt or Kevin Ayers at their best vocally; but if you want a realistic document of what it felt like to aurally and, quite literally, physically experience Soft Machine at their freaky, rocky, heavy best, like an organ-led answer to the Jimi Hendrix Experience, then look no further ! This is one intense listen ! Add to this three additional tracks, including 10 minutes from that line-up's final British appearance, at the Roundhouse in May 1968, and you have another worthy addition to the Soft Machine discography.

NUCLEUS - Hemispheres (Hux Records)

Release date : August 2006
Ian Carr (tpt/flhn) - Brian Smith (ts/ss/fl) - Karl Jenkins (bs/ob/elp) - Chris Spedding (g) - Jeff Clyne (b) - John Marshall (d)
Rec: Mar 1970 [1-7], 12 Jan 1971 [8-12] - Loc: London [1-7], Théâtre 140, Brussels (Belgium) [8-12]
Tracks: 1. Cosa Nostra [Nucleus] (4:28) - 2. Elastic Rock [KJ] (5:06) - 3. Stonescape [KJ] (1:37) - 4. Single Line [JC] (1:04) - 5. Twisted Track [CS] (5:30) - 6. 1916 [KJ] (6:02) - 7. Persephone's Jive [IC] (1:15) - 8. Song For The Bearded Lady [KJ] (7:12) - 9. Tangent [Nucleus] (7:46) - 10. We'll Talk About It Laer [KJ] (5:12) - 11. Snakehips Dream [IC] (9:10) - 12. Hemisphere [Nucleus] (6:13)

Comments : Another archival release after Hux's excellent collection of BBC sessions, The Pretty Redhead, this captures the group in arguably its finest incarnation - featuring future Soft Machine members Karl Jenkins and John Marshall - right at the start of its long career, recorded live in Europe in 1970-71 and drawing on material from the band's first two LPs. This has all the best-loved tunes from those classics, most of them penned by Jenkins, performed with the ideal mixture of discipline and looseness, with superb ensemble playing and improvising from all. In keeping with Hux's usual sonic standards, these are professional quality recordings, that come with a full-colour 12-page CD booklet which includes rare group photographs and extensive liner notes. A superb release.

SOFT MACHINE - Grides (Cuneiform Records)

Release date : May 2006
Elton Dean (as/saxello/elp) - Mike Ratledge (elp/o) - Hugh Hopper (b) - Robert Wyatt (d/voc)
Rec: 25 Oct 1970 [CD] & 23 Mar 1971 [DVD] - Loc: Concertgebouw, Amsterdam (Netherlands) [CD] & Gondel Filmkunsttheater, Bremen (Germany) [DVD] - Eng: Otto G. Hühn [DVD]
Tracks: [CD] 1. Facelift [HH] (6:59) - 2. Virtually [HH] (15:34) - 3. Out-Bloody-Rageous [MR] (8:12) - 4. Neo-Caliban Grides [ED] (10:12) - 5. Teeth [MR] (8:03) - 6. Slightly All The Time [MR] (10:34) - 7. Eamonn Andrews [MR] (1:36) - 8. Esther's Nosejob [MR] (11:22) - 9. Slightly All The Time / Noisette [MR/HH] (6:43) // [DVD] 1. Neo-Caliban Grides [ED] (5:16) - 2. Out-Bloody-Rageous [MR] (6:57) - 3. Robert Wyatt's vocal improvisation [RW] (2:22) - 4. Eamonn Andrews [MR] (1:36) - 5. All White [MR] (4:25)

Comments : Yet another instalment in Cuneiform's impressive series of archival Soft Machine releases, and as usual this is top-of-the-barrel stuff. Plus, this time you get a DVD as well as a CD ! The CD is a full-length concert recorded live at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam on October 25, 1970; in that period the band were premiering some of the material from "Fourth" which they were recording during breaks from touring, and pieces like "Teeth" and "Virtually" appear here in different and/or embryonic arrangements. As for the DVD, it is a 20-minute performance filmed for the German TV show "Beat Club" in March 1971, on the same day they played the concert featured on the Cuneiform CD Virtually (this is, however, as distinct performance - a shortened version of the second set). This shows the classic line-up at their peak, and in excellent video and audio quality. Another must-own !


Release date : April 2006
Elton Dean (as/saxello/elp/pc) - John Etheridge (g) - Hugh Hopper (b) - John Marshall (d)
Rec: 4-5 Sep 2005 - Loc: Eastcote Studios, London - Eng: Philip Bagenal - Pr: SoftWorks
Tracks: 1. Kite Runner [Big Creese] [JE] (6:57) - 2. Ratlift [incl. As If / Facelift / Slightly All The Time] [M.Ratledge/HH arr. SML] (7:55) - 3. 1212 [HH] (10:20) - 4. F&I [ED/JE] (2:08) - 5. Fresh Brew [SML] (6:24) - 6. New Day [ED] (3:47) - 7. Fur Edge [ED/JM] (2:49) - 8. Theta Meter [ED/HH] (3:44) - 9. Grape Hound [JE] (6:56) - 10. Strange Comfort [JE] (6:26)

Comments : Sadly this superb album came out just weeks after Elton Dean's passing, so it marks an end rather than a beginning - being Elton's final studio recording. Thankfully this is a very good one. Musically, this is the follow-up to 2003's SoftWorks album but with John Etheridge replacing Allan Holdsworth, the musical direction has actually changed significantly, and for the better in my opinion. While some will miss Allan's meticulous craft and jaw-dropping virtuosity, with John this sounds much more like a real band. There is even a heavy rock feel at times - although, don't be mistaken, this remains a jazz effort, with minimal themes paving the way for inspired soloing and interplay. As a bonus for longtime fans, there is a medley of old Soft Machine tunes. To be honest, this may be the only track where SML actually sound like classic Soft Machine, but they're an excellent group in their own right and, because they all have such unique and personal styles and sounds, this album should appeal to most fans of SM circa, let's say, 4 or 5.

SOFT MACHINE - Floating World Live (MoonJune)

Release date : January 2006
Mike Ratledge (o/syn/elp) - Karl Jenkins (elp/ss/elp/p) - Allan Holdsworth (g/vln) - Roy Babbington (b) - John Marshall (d)
Rec: 29 Jan 1975 - Loc: Post-Aula, Bremen (Germany) - Pr: Peter Schulze
Tracks: 1. The Floating World [KJ] (4:52) - 2. Bundles [KJ] (4:53) - 3. Land Of The Bag Snake [AH] (5:07) - 4. Ealing Comedy [RB] (6:08) - 5. The Man Who Waved At Trains [MR] (4:56) - 6. Peff [MR] (6:29) - 7. North Point [MR/JM] (4:05) - 8. Hazard Profile (Part 1) [KJ] (4:49) - 9. J.S.M. [JM] (10:13) - 10. Riff III [Soft Machine] (8:42) - 11. Song Of Aeolus [KJ] (4:16) - 12. Endgame [Soft Machine] (6:39) - 13. Penny Hitch (coda) [KJ] (2:40)

Comments : At long last, the first release of a live performance by Soft Machine's Bundles line-up featuring Allan Holdsworth on guitar. This concert, recorded for Radio Bremen in January 1975, consists of most of that album's material (which hadn't yet come out although in the can since the previous summer), a then-new piece ("Song Of Aeolus") plus a couple of band improvs (one of them a very embryonic incarnation of "Ban Ban Caliban") and solo showcases for Mike Ratledge, Roy Babbington and John Marshall. That era of Soft Machine was unique in that, taking the band's long established tradition of continuous change to an extreme, when Holdsworth joined all the previous repertoire was abandoned, literally at once, in favour of brand new material written by Karl Jenkins and, to a lesser extent, Mike Ratledge. This made the new Soft Machine even more difficult to compare with its predecessors, and gave the band a well-deserved chance for critical reappraisal. At long last, reviewers stopped bemoaning the loss of the band's father figures to judge the new line-up on its own merits. As a consequence, positive reviews again began to pour in, and 1974-75 was to prove Soft Machine's second golden age in many respects. A superb document, and in addition you even get lenghty previously unpublished interviews with several former bandmembers.

Robert WYATT - Theatre Royal Drury Lane 8th September 1974 (Hannibal/RykoDisc)

Release date : October 10th, 2005
Robert Wyatt (voc/pc), with: Dave Stewart (elp/o) - Hugh Hopper (b) - Laurie Allan (d) - Nick Mason (d [2-4/14]) - Fred Frith (vln [3]/g [6/14]/vla [13]) - Mike Oldfield (g [8/10/11/14]/syn [4]) - Julie Tippetts (voc [9/10/13/14]/p [9]) - Mongezi Feza (tpt [6/14]) - Gary Windo (ts [7/8/14]) - Ivor Cutler (voice [13])
Rec: 8 Sep 1974 - Loc: Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London
Tracks: 1. Introduction by John Peel (2:18) - 2. Dedicated To You But You Weren't Listening [H.Hopper] (1:36) - 3. Memories [H.Hopper] (3:58) - 4. Sea Song [RW] (9:13) - 5. A Last Straw [RW] (4:38) - 6. Little Red Riding Hood Hit The Road [RW] (6:42) - 7. Alife [RW] (4:28) - 8. Alifib [RW] (6:24) - 9. Mind Of A Child (Julie Tippetts solo) [J.Tippetts] (5:26) - 10. Instant Pussy [RW] (4:22) - 11. Signed Curtain [RW] (4:42) - 12. Calyx [P.Miller/RW] (3:19) - 13. Little Red Robin Hood Hit The Road [RW] (6:12) - 14. I'm A Believer [N.Diamond] / Laughing Policeman (7:36)

Comments : 2005 has been a great year for archive recordings (see below), but this one probably tops them all. At long last, an official release of this legendary performance, Robert Wyatt's only ever solo appearance, coinciding with the release of Rock Bottom. Only "Calyx" had been released leading to much speculation about whether the rest of the concert would/could be released. The people at RykoDisc, Wyatt's current label, apparently investigated further, located the multitrack tapes, remixed them and here are the results. This isn't quite the complete show (it misses "God Song", sung by Julie Tippetts without any RW involvement, the extended a-cappella vocal duet by RW and JT, and the other two songs performed solo by JT), but very close, and sonically this is obviously a radical improvement over the countless bootlegs that have appeared over the years. Musically, this is a double-edged sword. Basically, it's very interesting viewed as a group of great musicians playing the Rock Bottom material and other stuff without any attempt to recreate the sonic environment of the album but instead just being themselves (particularly true of Dave Stewart and Hugh Hopper who make the whole thing sound more "canterbury-ish"), which is both a good and bad thing - good in that it makes the performance worthy of interest not being a mere duplicate of the album; bad in that much of what made the album unique and compelling is lost in the process, and only partly replaced by something else. I don't think anything I'll say or write will have much influence on whether you'll want to get this - you will, and you definitely won't regret, musicological considerations aside...

Graham BENNETT - Soft Machine - Out-Bloody-Rageous [book] (SAF Publishing)

Publication date : October 1st, 2005

Comments : While I'm still busy working away on my own book on the Canterbury scene, English writer Graham Bennett has come up with a history of Soft Machine that, while overlooking everything else (the solo careers, the related bands... thanks Graham, my book will still be of some use, then !), is a very good account of the band's background, career and work. Based on extensive archive material as well as original interviews, and enhanced by Graham's own perspective (as a British teenager in the 1960s) on the context in which this music came to be, as well as various appendices and forewords by some of the principals. A must-read for any self-respecting Soft Machine fan.

SOFT MACHINE - British Tour '75 (MLP)

Release date : September 5th, 2005
Mike Ratledge (o/syn/elp) - Karl Jenkins (elp/ss/p) - John Etheridge (g) - Roy Babbington (b) - John Marshall (d)
Rec: 11 Oct 1975 - Loc: Nottingham University - Eng: Geoff Woodward
Tracks: 1. Bundles [KJ] (3:17) - 2. Land Of The Bag Snake [A.Holdsworth] (4:01) - 3. Out Of Season [KJ] (6:13) - 4. The Man Who Waved At Trains [MR] (6:15) - 5. JVH [MR] (4:12) - 6. The Floating World [KJ] (1:12) - 7. Ban Ban Caliban [KJ] (9:53] - 8. Sideburn [JM] (10:21) - 9. Hazard Profile (Part 1) [KJ] (6:12) - 10. (Part 2) [KJ] (1:41) - 11. (Part 3) [KJ] (0:24) - 12. (Part 4) [KJ] (1:30) - 13. (Part 5) [KJ] (3:58) - 15. Sign Of Five [Soft Machine] (14:45)

Comments : Once again, Major League Promotions amaze us with a previously unheard soundboard recording from a badly documented period in Soft Machine's career... Well, actually, post-1975 live recordings by the Softs are very few ! This concert took place a few months after John Etheridge had replaced Allan Holdsworth, and as could be expected Bundles still provides the bulk of the setlist. This is the Softs at their fusion peak. In addition to that you get early versions from Softs tracks like "Out Of Season", "Song Of Aeolus" and "Ban-Ban Caliban" (the latter in particular vastly superior to the album version in my opinion), plus jams (the CD closes with an intense 14-minute collective improv) and solos. Founding member Mike Ratledge had left by the time the band recorded that album, so it's great to hear these pieces performed by the dual-keyboard line-up. On a side note, it is worth mentioning that MLP's packaging skills have increased in leaps and bounds since their debut Caravan release two years ago, and both this and the Gong CD come with a nice booklet with liner notes (including contributions from the musicians) and unseen photos. A superb release !

SOFT MACHINE - Soft Stage/ BBC In Concert 1972 (Hux Records)

Release date : August 29th, 2005
Mike Ratledge (elp/o) - Karl Jenkins (elp/ob/bs) - Hugh Hopper (b) - John Marshall (d)
Rec: 20 Jul 1972 - Loc: Paris Theatre, London - Pr: Jeff Griffin
Tracks: 1. Fanfare [KJ] (1:59) - 2. All White [MR] (5:17) - 3. Slightly All The Time [MR] (11:51) - 4. M.C. [HH] (2:37) - 5. Drop [MR] (5:34) - 6. Stumble [KJ] (5:53) - 7. One Across [JM] (3:11) - 8. As If [MR] (3:48) - 9. Riff [KJ] (7:03) - 10. Gesolreut [MR] (6:59)

Comments : This is the welcome reissue of a 1972 BBC In Concert session previously released on Windsong. Unlike the 1971 session, the Hux version comes without bonus tracks, but with a much improved packaging - nice cover, detailed liner notes, and corrected indexing. This concert was recorded just after Karl Jenkins had joined the band, several months before the live album from Six. Consequently there is more material from 5 and earlier albums - even "Slightly All The Time" from Third - and overall this is a very good document of that line-up's skills and energy. Listen to Mike Ratledge's fuzz organ on "Drop" and you'll get the idea !

SOFT MACHINE - Out-Bloody-Rageous (Sony/BMG Music)

Release date : July 4th, 2005
Mike Ratledge, Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers, Daevid Allen, Hugh Hopper, Elton Dean, Phil Howard, John Marshall, Karl Jenkins, Roy Babbington
Rec: 1967-73 [Compilation of previously released from the first single to the seventh album]
Tracks: [CD1] 1. Feelin', Reelin', Squeelin' [KA] (2:50) - 2. Love Makes Sweet Music [KA] (2:27) - 3. Hope For Happiness [B.Hopper] (4:21) - 4. Joy Of A Toy [KA] (2:50) - 5. Hope For Happiness (reprise) [B.Hopper] (1:38) - 6. We Did It Again [KA] (3:46) - 7. Plus Belle Qu'Une Poubelle [KA] (1:03) - 8. Why Are We Sleeping? [KA/MR/RW] (5:33) - 9. Pataphysical Introduction (Pt. 1) [RW] (1:00) - 10. A Concise British Alphabet (Pt. 1) [RW/HH] (0:09) - 11. Hibou, Anemone And Bear [MR/RW] (6:00) - 12. A Concise British Alphabet (Pt. 2) [RW/HH] (0:12) - 13. Hulloder [RW/HH] (0:54) - 14. As Long As He Lies Perfectly Still [RW/MR] (2:35) - 15. Dedicated To You But You Weren't Listening [HH] (2:32) - 16. Out-Bloody-Rageous [MR] (19:11) - 17. Moon In June [RW] (19:08) // [CD2] 1. Teeth [MR] (9:12) - 2. Virtually (Part 4) (3:20) - 3. Kings And Queens [HH] (5:00) - 4. All White [MR] (6:07) - 5. Drop [MR] (7:42) - 6. Pigling Bland [MR] (4:24) - 7. Gesolreut [MR] (6:17) - 8. The Soft Weed Factor [KJ] (11:13) - 9. Chloe And The Pirates [MR] (9:28) - 10. Penny Hitch [KJ] (6:38) - 11. Down The Road [KJ] (5:49) - 12. The German Lesson [MR] (1:53) - 13. The French Lesson [KJ] (1:01)

Comments : At long last, a proper Soft Machine anthology, in other words "a young person's guide" to the Softs, covering the band's early years up to 1973 (compilations like Harvest Years and The Collection are a valid complement, providing a similar introduction to the band's later fusion output). Unavailable in digital form until now are both sides from the band's debut 1967 single "Love Makes Sweet Music" / "Feelin' Reelin' Squealin'". The rest of the material is all drawn from regular albums, but remastered with occasionally significant sonic improvement (especially the Third material on CD1 although there's only so much that could be done to make it sound at least decent). Overall I must say this is a surprisingly successful attempt at what seemed an impossible task - the wildly varied material flows very well, recreating the chronology of Soft Machine's musical evolution over these six years, and with only a few exceptions (I would have substituted "Slightly All The Time" for "Out-Bloody-Rageous") this does contain most of the band's classic pieces. In addition you get an informative and richly illustrated booklet, all at a very reasonable price.

SOFT MACHINE - Heavy Friends / BBC In Concert 1971 (Hux Records)

Release date : June 27th, 2005
Mike Ratledge (elp/o) - Elton Dean (as/saxello/elp) - Hugh Hopper (b) - Robert Wyatt (d) [all tracks except 2]
guest: Phil Howard (d [3])
with Heavy Friends [4efg]: Mark Charig (cornet) - Paul Nieman (tb) - Ronnie Scott (ts) - Roy Babbington (cb)
[2] Elton Dean Quartet: Elton Dean (as/saxello) - Mark Charig (cornet) - Neville Whitehead (cb) - Phil Howard (d), guest: Mike Ratledge (elp/o)
Rec: 11 Mar 1971 - Loc: Paris Theatre, London - Pr: John Walters
Tracks: 1. John Peel introduction (1:01) - 2. Blind Badger [ED] [performed by the Elton Dean Quartet] (10:07) - 3. Neo-Caliban Grides [ED] (5:42) - 4. a) Out-Bloody-Rageous (excerpt) [MR] - b) Eamonn Andrews [MR] - c) All White [MR] - d) Kings & Queens [HH] - e) Teeth [MR] - f) Pigling Bland [MR] - g) 10.30 Returns To The Bedroom [MR/HH/RW] (31:58) - 5. a) Slighty All The Time (middle section) [MR] - b) Noisette [HH] (6:01)

[5 is a bonus track exclusive to the 2005 reissue]

Comments : This live session recorded for the BBC in the final months of the classic Dean-Ratledge-Hopper-Wyatt line-up is an absolute classic. Not necessarily Soft Machine's best-ever performance, but a unique one in that the quartet is joined by a brass section on the Ratledge classics "Teeth" and "Pigling Bland". The session also includes one track performed by Elton Dean's group, plus another where Wyatt and his future remplacement Phil Howard drum in tandem. This had been unavailable for some time, and comes in an enhanced reissue - remastered (by Mike King), with a new booklet, and last but not least, a previously unreleased encore. Another CD that is difficult to do without !

SOFT MACHINE LEGACY - Live In Zaandam (MoonJune/Muséa)

Release date : June 16th, 2005
Elton Dean (as/saxello/elp) - John Etheridge (g) - Hugh Hopper (b) - John Marshall (d)
Rec: 10 May 2005 - Loc: De Kade, Zaandam (Netherlands)
Tracks: 1. Ash [JE] (11:39) - 2. 1212 [HH] (12:01) - 3. Baker's Treat [ED] (6:52) - 4. Kings And Queens [HH] (9:11) - 5. Two Down [JM/JE] (2:44) - 6. Big Creese [JE] (8:32)

Comments : This release is the recorded debut of the new incarnation of SoftWorks, with John Etheridge replacing Allan Holdsworth. Recorded live in the Netherlands in May 2005, this bring together two Etheridge originals, a brand new Hopper composition, a drums/guitar duo, the SoftWorks ballad "Baker's Treat" and, last but not least, the Soft Machine classic "Kings And Queens". Worth checking out to hear how different (and equally good) this sounds compared to SoftWorks. The legacy (& spirit) of Soft Machine is alive and well !

SOFT BOUNDS - Live At Le Triton (Le Triton)

Release date : May 2005
Elton Dean (as/saxello) - Sophia Domancich (p) - Hugh Hopper (b) - Simon Goubert (d)
Rec: 17 Jun 2004 - Loc: Le Triton, Les Lilas (France) - Eng: Jacques Vivante
Tracks: 1. La Part Des Anges [SD] (18:45) - 2. Gimlet Abides / First In The Wagon [ED] (17:25) - 3. Le Retour D'Emmanuel Philibert [SG] (11:59) - 4. Kings And Queens [HH] (15:53)

Comments : The latest in countless line-ups co-fronted by ex-Soft Machine stalwarts Dean and Hopper, this time associated with two of the best French jazzmen. Pianist Sophia Domancich is no newcomer to the Canterbury scene, and in fact Soft Bounds is, on paper at least, the original Equip'Out line-up with another drummer. But Simon Goubert (a long-time associate of Magma's Christian Vander) isn't just another drummer. The musical partnership established here is very strong, and although this release veers decidedly towards pure jazz, there are also strong classic Softs elements to be heard and enjoyed, in particular the occasional use of Rhodes piano. Music with depth, energy and originality.

GONG - Live in Sherwood Forest '75 (MLP)

Release date : May 9th, 2005
Steve Hillage (g/voc) - Didier Malherbe (ts/ss/fl) - Miquette Giraudy (voc) - Patrice Lemoine (kb) - Mike Howlett (b/voc) - Pierre Moerlen (d) - Mireille Bauer (mar/glock/pc)
guest: Jorge Pinchevsky (vln)

Rec: 25 Nov 1975 - Loc: Nottingham University - Eng: Geoff Woodward & John Moon

Tracks: 1. Master Builder [Gong] (10:19) - 2. Chandra [PL/MH] (7:14) - 3. Aftaglid [SH/MG] (16:06) - 4. Cat In Clark's Shoes [DM/MH/PL] (10:53) - 5. Winfgul Of Eyes [MH] (8:28) - 6. Salmon Song [SH/MG] (11:51) - 7. Isle Of Everywhere [Gong] (12:00) - 8. Shamal [Gong] (9:00)

Comments : This is an absolutely fascinating document : a great soundboard recording from a Gong gig in the transitional period between Daevid Allen's and Steve Hillage's departures, just before the band recorded Shamal. At that point much of the Shamal material was already in place ("Chandra", "Wingful Of Eyes", "Cat In Clark's Shoes" and "Shamal"), but with Hillage still on board, a lot of his solo material gets an airing as well ("Aftaglid" from Fish Rising and "Salmon Song" from L). Two highlights from You, "Master Builder" and "Isle Of Everywhere", provide the basis for intense jams, showcasing that line-up's impressive amount of instrumental expertise. Looking back this may well have been Gong's most "Canterbury"-like period, caught between the spacy/psychedelic explorations of the Radio Gnome trilogy and the strong jazz-fusion leanings of the later, Moerlen-led, line-ups. Needless to say, this is a must-have for Gong and Canterbury scene fans alike !

CARAVAN - Better By Far (Eclectic Discs)

Release date : March 28th, 2005
Pye Hastings (voc/g) - Geoff Richardson (vla/g/fl) - Jan Schelhaas (elp/o/p/syn/voc [4/7]) - Dek Messecar (b/bv) - Richard Coughlan (d)
guests: Vicki Brown (voc [6]) - Tony Visconti (rec/cb) - Fiona Hibbert (harp [7])
Rec: Mar-Apr 1977 - Loc: Utopia Studios, London - Eng/Pr: Tony Visconti
Tracks: 1. Feelin' Alright [PH] (3:27) - 2. Behind You [PH] (5:01) - 3. Better By Far [PH] (3:23) - 4. Silver Strings [GR] (3:54) - 5. The Last Unicorn [GR] (5:46) // 6. Give Me More [PH] (4:36) - 7. Man In A Car [JS] (5:36) - 8. Let It Shine [PH] (4:23) - 9. Nightmare [PH] (6:15)

Comments : This reissue had long been expected by Caravan fans. Indeed, while all of the band's back catalogue had been available since 1996 or earlier, "Better By Far" was still missing in its digital discography. At last this has been rectified thanks to Eclectic Discs, the label formed by the band's management team. This comes with the same treatment as the 2001 reissues, i.e. remastered sound and copious liner notes. No bonus tracks on this one, alas. But the opportunity to hear classics like "Nightmare" or "The Last Unicorn" without vinyl scratches is alone worth the purchase.

Elton DEAN & Sophia DOMANCICH - Avant (Hux Records)

Release date : March 28th, 2005
Musicians: Elton Dean (as) - Sophia Domancich (p)
Rec: 13 Apr 2004 - Loc: Gorizia (Italy) - Eng: Stefano Arnerio
Tracks: 1. Avant-Après [SD] (18:12) - 2. No Fuss [ED] (2:10) - 3. No Bother [ED] (27:59) - 4. Les Portes-en-Ré [SD] (8:43)

Comments : Elton Dean and French pianist Sophia Domancich first played together in Pip Pyle's Equip'Out in 1984. Since then, they have kept collaborating occasionally, most memorably on Elton's superb 1996 album "Silent Knowledge". This new releases sees their partnership stripped down to a duo. And entirely improvised musical meeting between two lyrical extroverts and exceptional musicians.

SOFT MACHINE - Breda Reactor (Voiceprint)

Release date : March 21st, 2005
Elton Dean (as/saxello) - Lyn Dobson (ss/ts/fl/voc) - Mike Ratledge (elp/o) - Hugh Hopper (b) - Robert Wyatt (d/voc)
Rec: 31 Jan 1970 - Loc: Het Turfschip, Breda (Netherlands)
Tracks: [CD1] 1. Eamonn Andrews [MR] (12:53) - 2. Mousetrap [HH] (5:35) - 3. Noisette [HH] (0:38) - 4. Backwards [MR] (4:25) - 5. Mousetrap reprise [HH] (0:15) - 6. Hibou, Anemone & Bear [MR/RW] (9:25) // [CD2] 1. Facelift [HH] (21:48) - 2. Moon In June [RW] (7:14) - 3. 12/8 Theme [HH] (5:16) - 4. Drumlink [RW] (1:08) - 5. Esther's Nose Job [MR] (7:43) - 6. Pigling Bland [MR] (3:23) - 7. Cymbalism [RW] (1:58) - 8. Out-Bloody-Rageous (excerpt) [MR] (2:21) - 9. 10.30 Returns To The Bedroom [MR/HH/RW] (1:56) - 10. We Did It Again [K.Ayers] (2:19)

Comments : [review not yet available]

Brian HOPPER - If Ever I Am (Voiceprint)

Release date : February 14th, 2005
Brian Hopper (ss/ts/kb/b/syn/pgm)
guests: Robert Wyatt (voc [2/6/8]/cornet [6]/tpt [2]) - Hugh Hopper (b [9]) - Graham Flight (kb [8]) - Frances Knight (p [4]) - Ansy (voc [10]) - Robert Fenner (elg [3])
Rec: 2000 [4], 2002-03 - Loc: Spinney Studio, East Sussex - Pr: Brian Hopper
Tracks: 1. Blowit [BH] (3:56) - 2. The Pieman Cometh [BH] (6:21) - 3. Two To Tutu Too [BH] (8:40) - 4. Sometimes It Is [BH] (4:12) - 5. Akamalaka [BH] (6:11) - 6. Hope For Happiness [BH] (9:22) - 7. Tarzapark Rarka [BH] (8:34) - 8. For Freedom [BH] (4:51) - 9. Modality [BH] (7:54) - 10. If Ever I Am [BH] (5:09) - 11. Blewit [BH] (3:57)

Comments : Hugh's older brother, former Wilde Flowers leader and part-time Soft Machine member (circa Volume Two) has at last released his first proper solo album ! It originally grew out of Brian’s idea to involve various former bandmates in the re-recording of some of the Wilde Flowers material using modern recording techniques and instrumentation. Unfortunately as attractive as the idea looked and may have sounded, it was a project that was to prove ultimately un workable. If Ever I Am however is a fine album that has its roots in the revered Canterbury scene and its sights on perhaps wider pastures. An eclectic mix of jazz and progressive rock, it includes substantial contributions from Hugh Hopper and Robert Wyatt, who sings on three tracks including a remake of "Hope For Happiness" (closer in feel to the original WF version as opposed to Soft Machine's arrangement). Brian's other musical partner Robert Fenner is also featured throughout on guitar. Of interest to Canterbury Scene enthusiasts, but also to lovers of finely crafted jazz-tinged progressive rock.

HATFIELD & THE NORTH - Hatwise Choice (BurningShed)

Release date : January 31st, 2005
Musicians: Phil Miller (g) - Dave Stewart (o/p/elp/syn/tone gen) - Richard Sinclair (b/voc) - Pip Pyle (d)
Rec: 5 Apr 1973 [21], Sum 1973 [23], 22 Jan 1973 [15-17], 24 Jul 1973 [18], 21 Sep 1973 [14/19], 19 Mar 1974 [2/3/20/22], 29 Mar 1974 [11/12], 2 Jun 1974 [13], 21 Nov 1974 [1/4-8], 16 Mar 1975 [9-10] - Loc: BBC Studios, London + Rainbow Theatre, London [9-10], Tin Pan Alley, Emmen (Netherlands) [11/12], Melkweg, Amsterdam (Netherlands) [13], Théâtre Présent La Villette, Paris (France) [14/19], Rotterdam (Netherlands) [21] - Pr: Hatfield And The North
Tracks: 1. Let's Eat (Real Soon) [RS/PP] (3:15) - 2. Shaving Is Boring [PP] (6:51) - 3. Licks For The Ladies [RS/PP] (2:59) - 4. Hattitude [organ improv] [H&TN] (3:13) - 5. Stand On The Green [DS] (1:03) - 6. Prenut [DS] (3:34) - 7. O Wot A Lonely Lifetime [RS] (1:19) - 8. (Big) John Wayne Socks Psychology On The Jaw [DS] (0:56) - 9. Dave Intro [electric piano solo] [DS] (1:56) - 10. The Yes-No Interlude / 6/4 Jam [PP] (8:08) - 11. Son Of Plate Smashing Dog [H&TN] (1:16) - 12. (Son Of) There's No Place Like Homerton [DS] (2:27) - 13. Gigantic Landcrabs In Earth Takeoverbid [DS] (6:20) - 14. The Laughing Policeman (0:39) - 15. Finesse Is For Fairies [PM] (1:27) - 16. Nan True's Hole [PM] (2:56) - 17. Lything And Gracing [PM] (3:41) - 18. For Robert [RS] (2:10) - 19. Blane Over Paris [H&TN] (6:19) - 20. Laundry Soup [DS] (0:58) - 21. Effing Mad Aincha [H&TN] (2:57) - 22. Top Gear Commercial [DS/PP] (1:22) - 23. Calyx [demo] [PM] (2:59)

Comments : At last a new Hatfield release ! Of course, this is archival material, but it is all previously unreleased and includes many gems. A large part of the CD is made up of the band's best BBC sessions, in unprecedently good sound quality. In addition, there is some great-sounding bonus material (a pre-1st album demo of "Calyx", a surprising live take of "The Yes-No Interlude" at the Rainbow in '75), plus an assortement of bootleg-quality live material, most of which focusses on the more humorous aspects of Hatfield. In case you hadn't understood that the Hatfields were not only excellent musicians, they were also some of the funniest. Good news : this is subtitled "Volume 1", so hopefully there's at least a further volume of such goodies to be expected...

Pip PYLE's EQUIP'OUT - Instants (Hux Records)

Release date : November 29th, 2004
Musicians: Elton Dean (as/saxello) - Patrice Meyer (g/g-syn) - Paul Rogers (cb) - Pip Pyle (d)
Rec: 14 Apr 1995 - Loc: Instants Chavirés, Montreuil (France) - Pr: Equip'Out
Tracks: 1. Rêve De Blues [PM] (7:32) - 2. Rififi [PR] (13:52) - 3. Thunder [ED] (6:44) - 4. Rumble Stilt Skin (improv) (9:56) - 5. Amba [ED] (13:24)

Comments : Equip'Out's decade-long career was rather poorly documented - several of its more ephemeral line-ups went unrecorded, such as the one that toured England in 1987 and had guitarist Mimi Lorenzini depping for Elton Dean. Instants documents the final incarnation of the band, and is interesting in that for the first time there was no pianist. As a result the overall sound contrasts nicely with Equip'Out as we know it, and in addition much of this CD is comprised of compositions previously unheard by the band (and in the case of Patrice Meyer's "Rêve de Blues", unheard by any line-up !). I was at this show and consequently have a personal fondness for the music contained herein, but I'm sure many will find this a great addition to their Canterbury discography. Another fine offering from Hux Records who definitely deserve your support !!

EGG / KHAN / CARAVAN - new remastered reissues (Eclectic Discs)

Release date : November 22nd, 2004

Comments : Eclectic Discs is the label formed by the fine people already behind the excellent series of Caravan and Kevin Ayers reissues (to name but the most Canterbury-relevant) on Universal Records - namely producer and liner notes writer Mark Powell (who is also, of course, Caravan's manager) and remastering expert Paschal Byrne. All of these five albums have been available on CD before, but never in such fine packaging and sound quality, and anyway they'd been out of print for years in their earlier, inferior incarnations. In some cases but not all bonus material has been added - a previously unheard movement from the sidelong suite on the first Egg album and an unreleased single by Khan (including an unknown song and an alternative take of another), as well as single A and B sides where relevant.

Caravan - "The Album" (1980) : to be honest, I find a number of the songs of this album rather embarrassing; it's clear that inspiration was at an all-time low in the band, with Pye and Dave contributing songs originally written a number of years previously, and Geoff making a brave but ultimately unconvincing attempt at writing (and, err, singing) his own songs. Significantly perhaps, one of the best songs from these sessions, "It's Never Too Late", was used as a B-side (thankfully it's included on this reissue) and some clearly inferior material included instead.
Caravan - "Back To Front" (1982) : the fine (in comparison) reunion effort by the original line-up, with some great songs by everyone and some not-so-great songs by just about everyone too, but enough good material in here to make it a must-own by any self-respecting Caravan fan. Includes minor and major classics such as Richard's "Back To Herne Bay Front", Pye's "All Aboard" and David's "Proper Job".
Egg - "Egg" (1970) : somewhat naïve in parts, but overall a surprisingly mature statement by a trio of 18-year-olds (would you believe ?), taking the legacy of the Nice's organ-bass-drums format to new heights with the added influence of Stravinsky, particularly evident on the sidelong epic "Symphony n°2"; includes their hilarious debut single "Seven Is A Jolly Good Time" as well as the missing movement from the suite (a rock arrangement of a section from the "Rite Of Spring")
Egg - "The Polite Force" (1971) : this has another sidelong suite, even better than the first one, and what is undoubtedly Egg's best vocal number, "A Visit To Newport Hospital", with a lyric about Uriel's ill-advised sojourn on the Isle of Wight. Dave Stewart's organ playing is an absolute delight. A Canterbury classic, absolutely indispensable, and in its way a precursor to a lot of Rock In Opposition-school music.
Khan - "Space Shanty" (1972) : the début effort by Steve Hillage, and a sort of prequel to his "Fish Rising" album (most of which was originally composed for the final, shortlived line-up of Khan anyway), with some very solid compositions and performance from all involved. Keyboard parts are performed by very special guest Dave Stewart, and it's another stellar performance from our beloved genius. Certainly one of the best progressive rock efforts of its time.

Theo TRAVIS - Earth To Ether (33 Jazz)

Release date : November 15th, 2004
Musicians: Theo Travis (ts/fl) - Simon Colam (p) - Andy Hamill (cb) - Marc Parnell (d/pc)
guests: Richard Sinclair (voc/g) - Mark Wood (g) - David Gordon (p) - Roy Dodds (pc)
Rec: May 2004 - Loc: The Premises, London - Eng: Justin Underhill - Pr: Theo Travis
Tracks: 1. The Mystic and the Emperor [TT] (8:57) - 2. 21st Century Schizoid Man [King Crimson] (3:40) - 3. The Book [TT/M.Travis] (6:15) - 4. Marti [TT] (5:40) - 5. The Munich Train [TT/R.Sinclair/J.Coe] (7:53) - 6. This Frozen Time [TT/R.Sinclair/J.Coe] (4:35) - 7. Stewed Flute [TT] (2:26) - 8. Things Change [TT] (4:20) - 9. Full Moon Rising Part 2 [TT] (6:42)

Comments : Theo Travis has established himself as one of the most respected musicians on the current UK jazz scene, leading his own groups as well as performing with the likes of John Etheridge, John Marshall, etc. Of course he is also a member of the large "Canterbury family" having toured and recorded with Gong in the final (?) phase of the 'Classic' line-up in 1999-2001. More recently he has worked a lot with Richard Sinclair and apart from featuring his regular quartet playing his usual brand of refined and melodic jazz (of particular note here is the great cover of King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man"), Earth To Ether has Richard singing lead on three tracks and playing acoustic guitar on two of these, both featuring lyrics penned by famed Canterbury music enthusiast Jonathan Coe, writer of such fine books as "What A Carve Up!" and "The Rotters' Club". Along with Dave Sinclair's recent solo album this is a rare and welcome chance to hear new performances by Richard, so this CD comes highly recommended if only for that reason. And chances are you will like the rest of the album as well!

PSYCHIC WARRIOR - s/t (Hux Records)

Release date : November 15th, 2004
Musicians: Elton Dean (s) - Alex Maguire (kb) - Fred Baker (b) - Liam Genockey (d)
Rec: Sep 2003 - Loc: Cowshed Studio, London - Pr/Eng: Joe Leach
Tracks: 1. The Burglary [AM] (8:12) - 2. Psychic Warrior [AM] (7:25) - 3. Green Lanes [AM] (11:12) - 4. Social Reformers [AM/ED] (10:40) - 5. Hail Mary Pass [AM] (9:11) - 6. Marina [AM] (7:22)

Comments : One of the great achievements of Elton Dean's 2001 album MoorSongs was to bring together for the first time the stellar quartet of Elton, organist Alex Maguire, bassist Fred Baker and drummer Liam Genockey. Maguire evidently liked the experience so much that he has recreated this dream team for his own project Psychic Warrior. His excellent compositions are brought to life with all the energy and lyricism that we've come to expect from these musicians. This is an excellent, very accessible release that should please all fans of jazz-fusion in the vein of Soft Heap or - obviously - Pip Pyle's Bash.

UNIVERSITY OF ERRORS - Jet-Propelled Photographs (Cuneiform)

Release date : September 2004
Daevid Allen (voc) - Josh Pollock (g/voc/megaphone/xyl/p/pc) - Michael Clare (b) - Warren Huegel (d/pc)
Rec: Oct-Nov 2003 - Loc: Foothill College, Los Altos Hills, CA (USA) - Pr: Josh Pollock

Tracks: 1. That's How Much I Need You Now [R.Wyatt] (4:03) - 2. Save Yourself [R.Wyatt] (3:29) - 3. I Should've Known [H.Hopper] (5:43) - 4. Jet Propelled Photograph [Shooting At The Moon] [K.Ayers] (4:13) - 5. When I Don't Want You [H.Hopper] (4:12) - 6. Memories [H.Hopper] (3:16) - 7. You Don't Remember [R.Wyatt/D.Allen] (4:06) - 8. She's Gone [K.Ayers] (2:11) - 9. I'd Rather Be With You [K.Ayers] (3:41) - 10. Love Makes Sweet Music [K.Ayers] (3:07) - 11. Feelin' Reelin' Squealin' [K.Ayers] (2:40) - 12. Hope For Happiness [B.Hopper] (5:54) - 13. Soon Soon Soon [K.Ayers] (3:25)

Comments : This is the fourth episode in the adventures of Daevid Allen's "Californian" rock band, and quite possibly their best so far. Part of the reason is the material - this is actually a remake of Soft Machine’s legendary "Gomelsky demos" from April 1967, plus a few more songs from the Softs' very early days ("Love Makes Sweet Music", "Hope For Happiness"...). As Steve of Cuneiform writes, "University of Errors revives, re-informs, and reinvents Soft Machine’s psychedelic rock and pop of the era, kicking it into the 21st century and resulting in a sound that is entirely new !". Couldn't have said it better !

SOFT MACHINE - Somewhere In Soho (Voiceprint)

Release date : May 10th, 2004
Musicians: Elton Dean (s/elp) - Mike Ratledge (elp/o) - Hugh Hopper (b) - Robert Wyatt (d/voc)
Rec: Apr 1970 - Loc: Ronnie Scott's Club, London
Tracks: [CD1] 1. Slightly All The Time (10:21) - 2. Out-Bloody-Rageous (10:46) - 3. Eamonn Andrews (10:33) - 4. Mousetrap (4:37) - 5. Noisette (0:53) - 6. Backwards (3:32) - 7. Mousetrap (reprise) (0:23) - 8. Hibou Anemone & Bear (4:44) // [CD2] 1. Facelift (19:19) - 2. Moon In June (8:02) - 3. Esther's Nose Job (8:21) - 4. Pigling Bland (3:45) - 5. Cymbalism (4:19) - 6. Esther's Nose Job (reprise) (1:23)

Comments : Yet another live document from the 'classic' line-up of Soft Machine, from the period when Third was recorded, and the then-new quartet line-up was beginning to find its feet. Thankfully, the sound quality here is distinctly better than the previous Voiceprint release, Facelift (recorded just a few days later), although still an amateur recording. No major surprises as the band's set was very consistent at the time, but a more playful atmosphere presides in the quartet's interplay, most notably in the finale of "Esther's Nosejob". An interesting document for Softs completists.

Pip PYLE's BASH - Belle Illusion (Cuneiform)

Release date : May 2004
Musicians: Patrice Meyer (g) - Alex Maguire (kb) - Fred Baker (b) - Pip Pyle (d) + guest: Elton Dean (as)
Rec: Aug 2002 & Jun 2003 - Loc: Seattle & Paris - Pr: Benji Lefevre & Pip Pyle
Tracks: 1. For Adiba [PP] (7:54) - 2. Vas-Y Dotty [PP] (5:03) - 3. Sparky [AM] (7:19) - 4. Beautiful Baguette [FB] (7:49) - 5. Biffo's Belle Illusion [PP] (7:45) - 6. Spoutnik [PP] (8:26) - 7. Cauliflower Ears [PP] (9:21) - 8. Carousel [PM] (7:05) - 9. John's Fragment [AM] (6:38)

Comments : The long-awaited recorded debut of Pip Pyle's new band, which brings together some of the best players around - Patrice Meyer and Fred Baker in particular being long-term accomplices of the drummer, while Alex Maguire has appeared on many of Elton Dean's 1990s projects - on a repertoire consisting mostly of Pip's own compositions. While most are rhythm-driven (and very interestingly so), some are very melodic too, "Spoutnik" being a standout track in this respect, with some tasteful and restrained playing from all involved. A great album - and recent gigs have proven that Bash have the potential to do even better on their next one. Of note is the presence of old pal Elton Dean on a rendition of the Pyle 'standard', "Cauliflower Ears".

SOFT MACHINE - Live In Paris (Cuneiform)

Release date : May 2004
Musicians: Elton Dean (s/elp) - Mike Ratledge (kb) - Hugh Hopper (b) - John Marshall (d)
Rec: 2 May 1972 - Loc: Olympia, Paris
Tracks: [CD1] 1. Plain Tiffs [ED] (3:32) - 2. All White [MR] (6:23) - 3. Slightly All The Time [MR] (13:09) - 4. Drop [MR] (7:43) - 5. M.C. [HH] (2:59) - 6. Out-Bloody-Rageous [MR] (13:25) // [CD2]: 1. Facelift [HH] (17:53) - 2. And Sevens [SM] (8:55) - 3. As If [MR] (8:30) - 4. L.B.O. [JM] (6:08) - 5. Pigling Bland [MR] (6:05) - 6. At Sixes [SM] (11:00)

Comments : This wonderful snapshot of the 5 band (well, side two anyway) originally came out on One Way Records in 1995, but has long since been deleted. Cuneiform reissue the double-CD with noticeably remastered (but still mono) sound and improved packaging (a better scan of Graham Flight's painting and liner notes). It is interesting to note how close to the end of the Wyatt period the Softs still sounded at that point - so much for the theory of Soft Machine undergoing a musical revolution when he left ! John Marshall is of course a sublime drummer, and with Dean and Hopper still present alongside Ratledge the spirit of the best Softs remains. The repertoire consists mostly of pieces from the third and fifth albums, plus a couple of improvs and an unreleased introductory theme by Elton. A definite must-have !!

Elton DEAN - Sea Of Infinity (Hux Records)

Release date : March 26th 2004
Musicians: Elton Dean (as [1/4]/saxello [4]/straight as [2/3]) - Mark Hewins (digital g) - Marcio Mattos (cb [1/4]) - Tony Bianco (d [1/4]) - Sibyl Madrigal (voc/poems [3])
Rec: 29 May 2002 [1/4], 24 Feb 2003 [2/3] - Loc: Steam Room Studio [1/4], Boat'ing Club [2/3] - Eng: Jon Wilkinson [1/4], Tim Fletcher [2/3]
Tracks: 1. Steam Rooming [ED/MH/MM/TB] (21:09) - 2. Boat'ing [ED/MH] (20:23) - 3. Sibyling [ED/MH/SM] (4:24) - 4. Beer Can And X [ED/MH/MM/TB] (22:32)

Comments : Hux Records have made an enviable reputation with their excellent releases of 1960s and 1970s BBC radio sessions (most notably Soft Machine's). With this, their fiftieth release, they have decided to venture into the field of contemporary recordings, and their first production is this new collection by Elton Dean. Sea Of Infinity collects four superb improvisations by various line-ups, ranging in size from his celebrated duo with guitarist Mark Hewins to a quartet that adds Marcio Mattos on double bass and Tony Bianco on drums.

ART BEARS - Art Box (RéR)

Release date : February 23rd, 2004

Dagmar Krause (voc) - Fred Frith (g/kb/vla/vln/xyl) - Chris Cutler (d/eld)
[CD1]: "Hopes And Fears" (check individual entry for details)
[CD2]: "Winter Songs" (check individual entry for details)
[CD3]: "The World As It Is Today" (check individual entry for details)
[CD4-5]: "Art Bears Revisited" Vol. 1 & 2 (check individual entry for details)
[CD6]: [bonus CD] 1. And The Comedy Bears [Bob Drake] (0:41) - 2. The Song Of Investment Capital Overseas [Duck And Cover, live Berlin Feb 16, 1984] (3:42) - 3. Summer / Freedom [John Oswald] (2:48) - 4. The Riddle (2:21) - 5. First Things First (1:55) - 6. March From The Dance (1:05) - 7. The Hermit (2:47) [4-7: Art Bears live Apr 1979] - 8. The Winter Mix [Biota] (4:35) - 9. Wheels [Fred Frith] (3:12) - 10. Takusa-No-Kandakara II [Yasushi Utsunomiya] (3:37) - 11. Coda To Man And Boy (7" given free to subscribers of "Winter Songs") (7:17)

Comments : This boxed set collects the complete recorded works of Art Bears plus additional material, and a bonus CD exclusive to the box, plus a 28-page booklet of artwork, articles, notes, interviews and commentary on the material, the work process and the 1979 tour.

GONG - Acid Motherhood (Voiceprint)

Release date : February 16th, 2004
Musicians: Daevid Allen (voc/g) - Josh Pollock (g) - Makoto Kawabata (g) - Cotton Casino (syn/voc) - Dharmawan Bradbridge (b) - Orlando Allen (d)
guests: Gilli Smyth (space whisper) - Greg Sheehan (pc)
Rec: Feb 2003 - Loc: Tiger Eye Studios, Byron Bay (Australia)
Tracks: 1. Ocean Of Molasses [OA/KM/JP/DB] (0:32) - 2. Supercotton [OA/KM/JP/DA] (8:36) - 3. Olde Fooles Game [GS/DA] (2:08) - 4. Zeroina [DA/M.Howlett] (2:56) - 5. Brainwash Me [JP/DA] (3:58) - 6. Monstah! [JP] (2:31) - 7. Bible Study [Das Ubuibi] (0:30) - 8. Bazuki Logix [KM] (4:15) - 9. Waving [JP/DA] (4:05) - 10. Makototen [KM/JP/DA] (13:36) - 11. Schwitless In Molasses [OA/JP/KM] (0:11/4:36)

Comments : A serious contender for the ugliest cover ever (and the back cover is even worse, believe it or not !), but that should not detract you from investigating the latest exploits of Daevid Allen & co - a radical evolution for Gong as saxes are nowhere to be heard and Gilli's space whisper makes only one brief appearance. The album is not as extreme as October 2003's London concert would lead one to expect, but still... Surprising !!

Dave SINCLAIR - Full Circle (DS website)

Release date : December 2003
Musicians: Dave Sinclair (syn/elp/o/p [10]/pgm [4]/pc [8/9])
with: Roxane (Rozz) Jobling (voc [1/2/6/7/11/12]/bv [3/5/6/8]) - Marcus Bishop (d [1-2/5-7/9-11]/pgm [2/10]/acg [6]/pc [8]) - Richard Sinclair (voc [4/9/10]/b [10]) - Jim Leverton (voc [3/5/8]) - Ray Doble (voc [1]) - Doug Boyle (elg [1-3/5-8/10-11]/acg [3/6/8/9]) - Simon Bentall (pc [1-3/5-8/10]) - Mark Fletcher (d [3/8]) - Fred Baker (b [2-3/7-8/11]) - Theo Travis (ss [2/7/8]/fl [7/11]) - Chris Wong (b [1/5/6]) - Julian Landymore (ts [1/2/5/6]) - Rod Brown (pc [9/10]) - Tim Vyni (tpt [10]) - Ralph Cross (rainstick [11]) - Hannele Wida (voc [11]) - Naomi Harada (voc [11]) - Takeo Matsui (voice [11]) - Brian Hickey (voice [11]) - Felicia Sinclair (voc [10])
Rec: Mar-Aug 2003 + Jan 2002 [12], May-Jun 2002 [10] - Loc: Absolute Studios, Kent - Eng: Marcus Bishop - Pr: Marcus Bishop & Dave Sinclair
Tracks: 1. Thru The Night [DS] (5:16) - 2. Forever Through The Years [DS] (5:15) - 3. Best Life Of All [DS] (4:25) - 4. O Caroline [DS/R.Wyatt] (5:16) - 5. Outside Of Your Love [DS] (5:08) - 6. Like To Know [DS] (4:44) - 7. Without You [DS] (7:10) - 8. Nowhere To Hide [DS] (9:01) - 9. That Day [DS] (4:14) - 10. Sancti [DS] (6:19) - 11. Peace In Time [DS] (7:15) - 12. And When The Sun Sets [DS] (1:58)

Comments : Dave Sinclair's departure from Caravan in mid-2002 was certainly a disappointment at the time, meaning that the backlog of his material due to appear on the album now wouldn't. As it turned out, Caravan did keep what is possibly the best (certainly the most ambitious) track on The Unauthorised Breakfast Item, "Nowhere To Hide". Now Dave is back under his own name with an album that revamps much of that material, plus a few surprises, such as a new, up-to-date version of his classic collaboration with Robert Wyatt, "O Caroline", and a reworking of the sublime chord sequence played by Hatfield and the North - with guest vocalist Wyatt - when Dave was (briefly) in that band. Main vocalist on the album is newcomer Roxane, who pushes the material in a more mainstream pop direction, although all songs retain Dave's unique melodic character. A number of songs do however feature the familiar voices of Richard Sinclair and Jim Leverton. And certainly no fan of Richard's voice can live without "That Day", a ballad in the vein of "Videos Of Hollywood". This album is available for sale directly from Dave's website, along with a further CD of additional material.

SOFT MACHINE - BBC Radio 1971-74 (Hux Records)

Release date : September 29th 2003
Musicians: Mike Ratledge (o/elp) - Elton Dean [CD1>1-3] (as/saxello/elp) - Karl Jenkins [CD1>4-6/CD2] (bs/ob/elp) - Allan Holdsworth (g [CD2>3-5]) - Hugh Hopper [CD1>1-4] (b) - Roy Babbington [CD2>5-6/CD2] (b) - Phil Howard [CD1>1-3] (d) - John Marshall [CD1>4-6/CD2] (d)
Rec: 15 Nov 1971 [CD1>1-3], 11 Jul 1972 [CD1>4], 30 Oct 1973 [CD1>5-6/CD2>1-2], 10 Jun 1974 [CD2>3-5] - Loc: BBC Studios, London
Tracks: [CD1] 1. As If [MR] (7.45) - 2. Drop [MR] (6.58) - 3. Welcome To Frillsville [all] (10.37) - 4. Fanfare [KJ] / All White [MR] / MC [HH] / Drop [MR] (11.12) - 5. Stanley Stamps Gibbon Album [MR] (3.36) - 6. Hazard Profile [KJ] (4.53) // [CD2] 1. Sinepost [JM/MR] (1:46) - 2. Down The Road [KJ] (7:33) - 3. North Point [MR] (3.00) - 4. The Man Who Waved At Trains [MR] (5.40) - 5. Hazard Profile (Parts 1, 2, 3 & 4) (aka Plain Bob) [KJ] (16.57)

Comments : Hux Records had already done a fantastic job at repackaging the 1967-71 sessions (see below), adding a substantial amount of previously unheard material. Now comes the second volume, covering the post-Wyatt years, and practically all of it is unreleased - excerpt for the first two tracks. Going through countless personnel changes we travel through time from the almost free-jazz leanings of the line-up with Phil Howard on drums, then enter the Karl Jenkins era with some 6/7-period material, ending on a high note with no less than 25 minutes of the Bundles line-up featuring Allan Holdsworth. All this comes, of course, with top-notch sound quality. Perhaps not as essential as the first volume, but still some of the band's best recordings.

CARAVAN - The Unauthorised Breakfast Item (Eclectic)

Release date : September 27th, 2003
Musicians: Pye Hastings (voc/g) - Geoff Richardson (vla/cel/acg/bj/bv) - Doug Boyle (lead g) - Jan Schelhaas (kb) - Jim Leverton (b/voc [9]/bv) - Richard Coughlan (d)
with: Simon Bentall (pc) - David Sinclair (kb [2/9]) - Jimmy Hastings (s [2/4/5]/fl [10]) - Ralph Cross (pc [3])
Rec: 2002 - Loc: Sweet Georgia Brown's, London except 2/9 Astra Studios, Monks Horton, Kent - Eng & Pr: Julian Hastings
Tracks: 1. Smoking Gun (Right For Me) [PH] (5:37) - 2. Revenge [PH] (5:15) - 3. The Unauthorised Breakfast Item [PH] (4:44) - 4. Tell Me Why [PH] (6:16) - 5. It's Getting A Whole Lot Better [PH] (8:57) - 6. Head Above The Clouds [PH] (7:21) - 7. Straight Through The Heart [PH] (4:40) - 8. Wild West Street [G.Richardson] (4:47) - 9. Nowhere To Hide [D.Sinclair] (8:54) - 10. Linders Field [D.Boyle] (3:36)

Comments : At last ! A brand new album from Caravan, the first since 1995's Battle Of Hastings. This is the first studio recording to feature the current line-up, including latest recruit Jan Schelhaas (not exactly a new face for Caravan though). His predecessor Dave Sinclair is featured on a couple of songs, including the epic "Nowhere To Hide", with Jim Leverton on lead vocals (a different version can be heard on Dave's solo album). Jan plays on the remainder of the album. Most of it has been written by Pye Hastings, and although a lot is in the poppier style favoured by him in recent years, an effort has obviously been made to develop the instrumental dimension of the material, with tasty solos from Doug Boyle, Jimmy Hastings and Geoff Richardson. Both critics and fans have reacted very favourably to the album, which has been rightly acclaimed as Caravan's best for over 25 years. The release, coinciding with the band's 35th anniversary, was celebrated with UK and European dates last autumn, including a very special London show that will be released as a DVD and live double-CD.

IN CAHOOTS - All That (Cuneiform)

Release date : September 2003
Musicians: Phil Miller (g/g-syn) - Elton Dean (as/saxello) - Jim Dvorak (tpt) - Peter Lemer (kb) - Fred Baker (b) - Mark Fletcher (d)
Rec: Jan 2003 - Loc: Eastcote Studios, London - Eng: Philip Bagenal & Benji Lefevre - Pr: Benji Lefevre & Phil Miller
Tracks: 1. Black Cat [PM] (12:51) - 2. Big Dick [PL] (6:59) - 3. Inca [PM] (11:53) - 4. Sleight Of Hand [PM] (13:17) - 5. Upside [FB] (6:04) - 6. Out There [PM] (7:30) - 7. Your Root 2 [PM] (8:53)

Comments : After the more blues-oriented "Out Of The Blue" from 2001, this is something of a return to the classic InCa vein best exemplified on 1996's "Parallel". With the added energy of a revamped rhythm section (Mark Fletcher has replaced Pip Pyle on drums after the latter left to form his own outfit, Bash), "All That" is really a smoking album, full of great playing and Phil Miller's usual excellent compositions. A personal favourite is the opening, "Black Cat", a progressive jazz tour-de-force with plenty of changes and solos, very much in the tradition of InCa epics like "Hic Haec Hoc", "And Thus Far" or "Simmer". Not to be missed.

BONE - Uses Wrist Grab (Cuneiform)

Release date : May 2003
Musicians: Nick Didkovsky (g) - Hugh Hopper (b/syn [1/4]/loops [7/8/14]) - John Roulat (d/pc [5])
with: Chris Murphy (g [3])
Rec: 2001-2002 [drums Oct 2002] - Loc: Punos Music, NYC [guitar], HH Studio, Deanery Farm, near Canterbury [bass], Barking Spider Studios, Warren, CT (USA) [drums] - Pr: Nick Didkovsky
Tracks: 1. To Laugh Uncleanly At The Nurse [ND] (3:00) - 2. Foster Wives, Trophy Hair [ND] (4:51) - 3. Chaos, No Pasties [ND] (2:33) - 4. Big Bombay [HH] (5:57) - 5. Hotel Romeo [HH arr.JR] (3:41) - 6. Danzig [HH] (1:55) - 7. V-Ram [ND/HH] (3:14) - 8. Jungle Rev [HH] (5:36) - 9. Sara's Wrist Grab [ND] (4:17) - 10. Overlife, Part 3 [ND] (3:39) - 11. Overlife, Part 1 [ND] (5:27) - 12. Green Dansette [HH] (2:49) - 13. We'll Ask The Questions Around Here, Part 2 [ND] (2:47) - 14. Little End Or Beginning [HH] (3:50)

Comments : An exciting new project co-led by Hugh Hopper with Americans Nick Didkovsky, guitarist and leader of the acclaimed NYC avant-jazz/rock ensemble Doctor Nerve, and John Roulat, drummer of the equally excellent Forever Einstein. This is a power trio of the highest calibre, with consistently challenging compositions by Nick and Hugh. Hopefully, they'll eventually play a gig together - they've actually never met in person (which doesn't show in the least when you listen to this CD).

POLYSOFT - Tribute to Soft Machine (Le Triton)

Release date : May 2003
Musicians: Hugh Hopper (b) - Pierre-Olivier Govin (bs/saxello) - Jean-Rémy Guédon (ts/fl) - Serge Adam (tpt) - Emmanuel Bex (o) - François Merville (d) - special guest: Elton Dean (as/saxello) [7-12]
Recorded : Le Triton, Les Lilas (near Paris), September 13th and 14th, 2002
Tracklist: 1. Facelift Intro [HH] (3:57) - 2. Facelift [HH] (12:24) - 3. Chloe And The Pirates [MR] (10:17) - 4. Gesolreut [MR] (5:51) - 5. Pig [MR] (5:04) - 6. Dedicated To You, But You Weren't Listening [HH] (2:13) - 7. As If [MR] (7:34) - 8. Kings And Queens [HH] (3:56) - 9. Slightly All The Time [MR] (7:02) - 10. Noisette 1 [HH] (0:41) - 11. Backwards [MR] (5:51) - 12. Noisette 2 [HH] (1:32)

Comments : This superb CD is the long-awaited document of the great 'Tribute to Soft Machine' show created by the French collective Polysons with Hugh Hopper in 1998, and performed occasionally since then. The plus on these particular performances was the presence of another veteran of the classic Soft Machine line-up, Elton Dean. Another prestigious guest is noted jazz organist Emmanuel Bex. Together, these seven musicians revisit the classic Softs repertoire, mostly drawn from the Volume Two through Six Album period. It's a pleasure to hear the full-fledged horn arrangements on these pieces - a glimpse of the shortlived septet line-up from 1969 !! - but also the original, unique and fresh approach of Polysoft to this music. Brilliantly captured, edited and mixed by the Triton team, this is more than just another live album !

SOFT MACHINE - BBC Radio 1967-71 (Hux Records)

Release date : March 31st, 2003
Musicians: Elton Dean (as/saxello) - Mike Ratledge (o/elp/fl) - Hugh Hopper (b/as) - Robert Wyatt (d/voc/p) - Lyn Dobson (ts) - Mark Charig (cornet) - Nick Evans (tb) - Brian Hopper (ss)
Recorded : BBC Studios, December 1967-June 1971
Tracklist: [CD1] 1. Clarence In Wonderland [KA] (2:57) - 2. We Know What You Mean (Soon, Soon, Soon) [KA] (3:11) - 3. A Certain Kind [HH] (3:38) - 4. Hope For Happiness [B.Hopper] (4:37) - 5. Strangest Scene (Lullabye Letter) [KA] (4:55) - 6. Facelift [HH] / Mousetrap [HH] / Backwards [MR] / Mousetrap Reprise [HH] (11:54) - 7. Moon In June [RW] (13:02) - 8. Instant Pussy [RW] (3:19) - 9. Slightly All The Time [MR] / Out-Bloody-Rageous [MR] / Eamonn Andrews [MR] (19:12)
[CD2] 1. Virtually [HH] (9:58) - 2. Fletcher's Blemish [ED] (12:11) - 3. Neo Caliban Grides [ED] (7:34) - 4. Dedicated To You, But You Weren't Listening [HH] (2:46) - 5. Eamonn Andrews [MR] / All White [MR] (7:11) - 6. Mousetrap [HH] / Noisette [HH] / Backwards [MR] / Mousetrap Reprise [HH] / drumlink [RW] - Esther's Nosejob [MR] / Pigling Bland [MR] (21:11)

Comments : The 1990-issued "Peel Sessions" double-CD has long been considered a must-own among the many Soft Machine releases, including as it did rare treats such as the trio version of "Moon In June" (as opposed to Robert Wyatt's largely solo performance of it on "Third") and the only professionally-recorded performances of the amazing septet version of the band.
This new version is even better !! Lovingly put together by the people at Hux Records (who were already behind the Kevin Ayers and Caravan BBC sessions CDs), with insightful liner notes by Mark Ellingham and memoirs from Hugh Hopper and Kevin Ayers, detailed credits and great photos courtesy of Mark Ellidge, this is actually the first of two volumes, concentrating on the 1967-71 period, up to Robert Wyatt's departure.
Of course, even more enjoyable is the inclusion of much previously unreleased stuff, all in absolutely great sound quality. First, the entire, oft-bootlegged 1967 session, sounding fresher than ever having been carefully remastered by Mike King; then Robert Wyatt's solo piano/voice rendition of "Instant Pussy", the later Matching Mole instrumental, here presented as a song; complete rather than edited versions of the November 1969 and May 1970 sessions; and more entirely unreleased performances ("Fletcher's Blemish" and "Eamonn Andrews/All White"). All in all, that's over 40 great minutes added to Soft Machine's discography.
Needless to say, this is a compulsory purchase even for those who own the original release. And the second volume (see above), although Wyatt-less, contains an even higher percentage of unreleased stuff, since only 15 minutes from the November 1971 had seen the light of day until now. Kudos to Hux Records !!

Richard SINCLAIR - What In The World (self-released)

Release date : November 2002
Musicians: Richard Sinclair (vocals), David Rees-Williams (church organ), Tony Coe (clarinet)
Recorded : Grote Kerk, Harlingen (The Netherlands), September 22nd 1996
Tracklist: 1. Out Of The Shadows [RS] (6:00) - 2. For Absent Friends [S.Hackett/P.Collins] (5:26) - 3. What's Rattlin'? [RS/P.Pyle] (5:57) - 4. Barefoot [RS] (6:16) - 5. Canterbury Song [T.Coe] (7:42) - 6. Long Lingers Autumn Time [H.Hopper/D.Seager] (6:34) - 7. Felafel Shuffle [RS] (4:00) - 8. What In The World [RS] (5:17) - 9. Fol De Rol [RS/R.Wyatt] (2:11) - 10. Calyx [P.Miller/R.Wyatt] (4:53)

Comments : This self-released CD documents an exceptional performance by Richard Sinclair, featured here on lead vocals with the sole accompaniment of David Rees-Williams' playing on church organ. On occasion the duo are augmented with clarinet genius Tony Coe. The repertoire revisits Richard's entire career, with many songs rarely heard performed live before. A unique and beautiful performance.

MATCHING MOLE - March (Cuneiform)

Release date : September 2002
Musicians: Robert Wyatt (drums & vocals) - Phil Miller (guitar) - Dave MacRae (electric piano) - Bill MacCormick (bass)
Recorded : Paradiso, Amsterdam, March 25th 1972
Tracklist: March (4:49) - Instant Pussy (4:53) - Smoke Signal (6:24) - Part Of The Dance (9:50) - No 'Alf Measures (5:40) - Lything And Gracing (11:39) - Waterloo Lily (4:20)

Comments : Following last year's "Smoke Signals", Cuneiform Records release another first-class archive document from the Matching Mole archives. This is a superbly recorded European concert from March 1972, one of the earliest performances by the quartet of Wyatt, Miller, MacCormick and MacRae. The energy level is amazing, and there are a couple of special treats for Mole fans, with rare performances of "No 'Alf Measures" (adapted from an old Kevin Ayers song) and, surprise... "Waterloo Lily", a spirited jam using Richard Sinclair's riffs from the instrumental section of the famous Caravan song ! An invaluable document.

SOFT MACHINE - Backwards (Cuneiform)

Release date : May 2002
Musicians: Robert Wyatt (drums & vocals, all instruments on first half of "Moon In June") - Mike Ratledge (keyboards) - Hugh Hopper (bass) - Elton Dean (sax) - Mark Charig (cornet) - Lyn Dobson (sax) - Nick Evans (trombone)
Recorded : London May 1970, Paris December 1969 & USA Autumn 1968
Tracklist: 1. Facelift (18:49] - 2. Moon In June [instrumental section] (7:38) - 3. Esther's Nosejob (12:55] - 4. Facelift (8:32) - 5. Hibou, Anemone & Bear (4:00) - 6. Moon In June [demo] (20:46)

Comments : Another superb archive release from Cuneiform Records, consisting of quality studio and live recordings from three different periods of the band's best years. First a 40-minute live session by the 'classic' quartet of Dean-Ratledge-Hopper-Wyatt; rare septet recordings - a supreme treat (from a December 1969 French TV show) - including possibly the definitive version of "Facelift"; and, the icing on the cake, the entire "Moon In June" demo (only a brief snippet of which had appeared on the Flotsam & Jetsam compilation), which has the same structure as the version on Third (Wyatt playing all instruments on the first half, the Soft Machine trio on the second, instrumental, half) but largely different lyrics - pure magic, in frankly stunning sound quality given that it was taken off a damaged acetate.

HENRY COW - Western Culture [remaster] (RéR)

Release date : January 28th, 2002
Musicians: Fred Frith (guitars & bass) - Tim Hodgkinson (organs, alto sax & clarinet) - Lindsay Cooper (bassoon, oboe & soprano sax) - Chris Cutler (drums), with Anne-Marie Roelofs (trombone & violin)
Recorded : August 1978 at Sunrise Studios, Switzerland
Tracklist: 1. Industry (6:57) - 2. The Decay Of Cities (6:55) - 3. On The Raft (4:01) - 4. Falling Away (7:38) - 5. Gretel's Tale (3:57) - 6. Look Back (1:19) - 7. Half The Sky (5:07)
bonus tracks on the remastered version: 8. Viva Pa Ubu (1:29) - 9. Look Back [alternate version] (4:28) - 10. Slice (1:21)

Comments : Concluding the acclaimed series of Henry Cow remasters "Western Culture" comes with enhanced booklet (very informative and detailed biographical notes by Chris Cutler) and three short but excellent bonus tracks, two of which had only appeared on Recommend Records sampler albums. Musically speaking this is probably Henry Cow's most consistent effort, although admittedly more complex (compositionally) and minimalist (sonically) than their Virgin-era albums. Still, an essential work.

PYLE-IUNG-GREAVES - The Pig Part (Voiceprint)

Release date : December 10th, 2001
Musicians: John Greaves (vocals, bass & keyboards) - Pip Pyle (drums & keyboards) - Philippe-Marcel Iung (guitars, keyboards & various instruments)
Recorded : 1997-99, Rouen (France)
Tracklist: 1. Phase 2 (4:14) - 2. Mô (1:45) - 3. Dog Bark Echo (4:11) - 4. Sad Song (3:19) - 5. Phase 1 [lyric: P.Blegvad] (4:32) - 6. Jimmy Real (4:57) - 7. 1 Part 2 (10:22) - 8. Dead God Dog Dingo (4:10) - 9. Mesnil-Esnard (0:49) - 10. Rouen (6:00)

Comments : A surprising and very creative project from the Canterbury scene's star rhythm section, in collaboration with a French multi-instrumentalist. This is a mixture of composed material and more spontaneous, sometimes rather funny, in-the-studio creations. Difficult to describe as a whole, but very enjoyable.

John GREAVES - The Caretaker (Blueprint)

Release date : May 2001
Musicians: John Greaves (voc/b) with François Ovide (g) & Manuel Denizet (d)
plus guests: Syd Straw, Kim Fay, David Lewis, Yannick Jory, Geraint Watkins, Scott Taylor, Vincent Courtois, Patrice Meyer
Recorded : 1998-2000, Studio Acousti, Paris
Tracklist: One in the Eye (5:07) - Earthly Powers (4:11) - No Body (3:34) - In the Real World (4:27) - In Hell's Despite (3:38) - Turning Pages (5:12) - He Puts Us Under (4:54) - The Wrong Song (4:45) - One Day My Feet Will Touch the Ground (6:10) - From Start to End (5:00)

Comments : The long-awaited follow-up to John's brlliant "Songs" album, this is as different as you could possibly imagine. The acoustic instrumentation is left behind in favour of a "power-trio" line-up, occasionally augmented with guests, in particular Geraint Watkins on organ. John Greaves himself is featured prominently on vocals and bass guitar. The consistent quality of the material makes this possibly his best album to date - this is rock music, for sure, with little of John's past with Henry Cow or National Health apparent in the music, but excellent rock music.

MATCHING MOLE - Smoke Signals (Cuneiform)

Release date : May 2001
Musicians: Robert Wyatt (drums & vocals) - Phil Miller (guitar) - Dave MacRae (electric piano) - Bill MacCormick (bass)
Recorded : UK & France, Spring 1972
Tracklist: Spoken Introduction (0:44) - March Ides I (4:22) - Smoke Rings (7:51) - Nan True's Hole (6:00) - Brandy As In Benj (4:22) - Electric Piano solo (1:11) - March Ides II (4:56) - Instant Pussy (2:51) - Smoke Signal (6:55) - Lything & Gracing (11:48)

Comments : This superbly packaged CD brings together various previously unreleased live and studio recordings by the 'classic' line-up of Matching Mole. The sound quality is mostly excellent, and the repertoire is centered around the material later recorded on the band's second album Little Red Record, so it's all-instrumental, high-density music that will delight fans of the band.

CARAVAN - Decca Catalogue Remasters (Decca/Universal)

Release date : February 2001
Musicians: Pye Hastings (vocals/guitar) - Richard Coughlan (drums) - David Sinclair (keyboards) - Richard Sinclair (vocals/bass) - Geoff Richardson (viola) - Jimmy Hastings (sax/flute/clarinet) - Steve Miller (keyboards) - John G. Perry (bass/backing vocals) - Mike Wedgwood (bass/vocals)
Recorded : 1968-75, England
Tracklist: refer to the Canterbury Online Discography for more details; bonus material detailed below

Comments : Opportunities to discover over two hours of unreleased top-quality material by one of your favourite bands are very rare, but this is what has just happened with Decca/Universal Music's Caravan reissue programme. February 26th saw the release of 6 CDs, which cover the entire output of the band on Decca/Deram between 1970-75. In addition to remastered album material, each CD contains a wealth of bonus material which is detailed below. For this we have to thank in particular Mark Powell, mastermind of this project and author of the extensive booklet liner notes, as well as remix engineers Paschal Byrne and Julian Hastings (son of Pye).



* A Day In The Life Of Maurice Haylett (5:40)

This outtake from the If I Could sessions was already included on the Where But For Caravan Would I compilation issued in 2000, but reappears here as it should have, since it is a song that largely deserves to be heard in conjunction with the album. If I Could... was quite a long album for this time period, and there was no room left to include it. Why it was never used until now remains something of a mystery, apart from the fact that everyone seemed to have forgotten about its very existence. Apparently there was no shortage of material during this period, and unlike later outtakes, most of which surfaced on subsequent albums, this didn't. "A Day..." is very typical of early 70s Caravan, in that it starts very quietly and then builds into something much bigger, culminating with a classic Sinclair organ solo. Excellent stuff.

* Why? (demo version of "And I Wish I Were Stoned") (4:22)

* Clipping The 8th (demo version of "Hello Hello") (3:13)

* As I Feel I Die (demo version) (4:39)

These are pro-quality studio demos dating from the period between the first and second Caravan albums, at at time when the band was without a label and self-financed recordings of then-new material with a view to getting a new contract. These versions are very similar to those which appeared on the finished album, just a bit less polished, especially in the vocal department. "And I Wish..." has Pye singing lead all the way through, rather than Richard. Understandable since this is his song, but with the lack of any songs by Richard on the album, it was later decided that he should perform the lead vocal (in contrast, the demo of "Hello Hello", yet another Hastings song, already has him singing lead).


* I Don't Know Its Name (alias "The Word") (6:12)

One of this set of reissues' most enjoyable revelations - a totally unknown Caravan song (actual title "Frozen Rose") written and sung by Richard Sinclair. Being quite similar in structure to "Winter Wine", and not a major departure from Caravan's style at the time, it's understandable why it was left off the album, although on the other hand it's a minor tragedy that it has remained unheard until now. Classic Caravan, and along with "A Day In The Life Of Maurice Haylett", one of the two major album outtakes from the original line-up.

* Aristocracy (3:42)

This is one of Pye Hastings' shorter songs on the subsequent album Waterloo Lily, heard here performed a year earlier with Dave Sinclair still in the line-up. The arrangement is quite similar apart from the obvious difference in keyboard instrumentation, but the overall performance, vocal and instrumental, is less assured than on the WL version, as exemplified by the final collapse.

* It's Likely To Have A Name Next Week (instrumental demo of "Winter Wine") (7:48)

While not as fantastic as the released version (especially in the organ department - Dave's solo on it seemed to capture the very best of hundreds of improvisations, which is not the feeling you get here), this is interesting since it featured Richard humming the tune rather than singing the lyrics, which were penned some time later. The opening section is totally different to its final incarnation, but other than that the structure of "Winter Wine" is already in place, only waiting for the extra touch of Caravan perfection to become the classic it remains to this day.

* Group Girl (first version of "Golf Girl" with slightly different lyrics) (5:04)

Very similar to the final version, with the exception of the wind instruments (John Beecham's trombone on the intro - who remains uncredited for his performance except for the Canterbury Tales compilation which restored his credit - and Jimmy Hastings' flute and piccolo) and some early lyrics that were later considered too personal and abandoned in favour of a more 'universal' story (of the "Pat" in the song, Richard sings that she "became a Missus", and that they "had a son... called Jason"). An interesting alternate take, in much the same way as a lot of the stuff on the Beatles' Anthology series.

* Disassociation / 100% Proof (new mix) (8:35)

This is an attempt to illustrate the amount of instrumental contributions committed to tape during the sessions for "Nine Feet Underground", the final result being assembled from countless different takes in order to create the best possible performance (an easy process nowadays with the computer technology, an unbelievable mess of master tape thirty years back!!). Even Richard Sinclair's vocals are slightly different, with a couple of minor changes in the lyrics. The most obvious addition in the final jamming section is an energetic guitar solo by Pye, which is fine but certainly not up to the level of Dave's organ solos, but still an interesting alternative to the version we know so well.


* Pye's June Thing (2:57)

* Ferdinand (2:57)

These two solo voice/guitar performances by Pye Hastings date from the last days of the original line-up, in early June 1971. Pye's songs from this period have a certain charm that is particularly in evidence on these stripped down (except for some lead acoustic guitar overdubs), acoustic takes. Very much in the style of "The World Is Yours" or "Aristocracy", and equally attractive.

* Looking Left, Looking Right (5:37)

An outtake from the early sessions for Waterloo Lily, in November 1971, with Steve Miller's unique electric piano playing well to the fore. The song itself, written by Pye Hastings, I find more typical of late-period Caravan (it especially brought to my mind "Make Yourself At Home" from The Album), with a slightly funk-rock feel and bluesy structure. It is also notable for a guest appearance by trumpet player Mike Cotton, who also plays on part of "The Love In Your Eye". Not an unforgettable classic but certainly a complete song that fully belongs with the rest of the album.

* Pye's Loop (1:21)

Actually segued to the previous track at the mastering stage, this is a riff from Looking Left used as the background for a trumpet solo by Cotton which makes use of the delay pedal in the manner of some of Miles Davis' work from that era. Nice.


* Memory Lain, Hugh / Headloss (US Mix) (9:18)

The US single of the duo of songs that still opens Caravan's shows to this day, has a significantly different mix to the original. No alternate solos or vocal takes, but a different focus on the wealth of instrumental layers committed to tape - especially on "Memory Lain, Hugh", in which Jimmy Hastings floating flute solo is heard better than ever before.

* No! / Waffle (aka Be Alright / Chance Of A Lifetime) (5:10)

* He Who Smelt It Dealt It (aka Memory Lain, Hugh) (4:43)

* Surprise, Surprise (3:15)

* Derek's Long Thing (11:00)

Possibly the most exciting stuff to appear in this series!!

These four tracks amount to about 25 minutes of material recorded by the previously unheard line-up of Pye Hastings, Richard Coughlan, Geoff Richardson, Derek Austin and Stuart Evans, which existed between August 1972 and February 1973. These tapes were the original sessions for what was to eventually become the For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night album, and were recorded at Chipping Norton Studios between December 1972 and January 1973. That line-up disintegrated following a tour of Australia and New Zealand, and the album was started again with John G. Perry and David Sinclair.

Apart from the one totally unreleased piece, these early versions are sometimes significantly different ("Memory Lain..." is noticeably slower than the known version), especially so since these recordings are instrumental - with the exception of a wordless vocal by Pye Hastings, singing the melody line on "Surprise, Surprise". Overall, I'd say these recordings are a welcome rehabilitation of a line-up that, in this writer's eyes, had every right to call itself Caravan. In the liner notes, Pye Hastings is quoted as saying that he didn't think Derek Austin's compositions, of which "Derek's Long Thing" is a prime example, was Caravan music, nor was his organ playing. This is probably true to the extent that Caravan can't really be Caravan without Dave Sinclair, but other than that, this long instrumental epic is Caravan at the peak of its prowess - Richardson and Austin's solos are excellent, and the general atmosphere of quiet, elegant jamming is a classic example of the band at its prime. Let's note that, while this is the same piece, this is not the same recording as "Austin Cambridge" on the Canterburied Sounds series, which was probably a (good) rehearsal tape. This version is slightly shorter, sometimes different, and has top-notch sound quality.


One of the major achievements of this series, and a dream come true for a lot of Caravan fans - the complete concert with the New Symphonia. In truth, the extra 'symphonic' material is limited to the encore, "A Hunting We Shall Go", which many in attendance that night said was the peak of the evening. And it is indeed a superb piece, although not a major departure from the album version.

The 'original' album is of course included, but with the original order in which the songs were performed at last restored, and the between-songs 'banter' included as well. This part of the CD has only been remastered, not newly remixed as the rest, but the mixing engineers at the time did a fine job and it sounds really great.

Those present at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane that night will remember that Caravan began their performance with a 'solo' set, without the orchestra. This 20-minute section has been mixed from the original tapes, as for "A Hunting We Shall Go", and it is quite typical of Caravan's concerts from that period (setlist: "Memory Lain, Hugh" / "Headloss", "The Dog The Dog He's At It Again" & "Hoedown"). It's the first release of (non-orchestral) live material featuring what Pye Hastings has described repeatedly as the best performing line-up Caravan ever had in its career.

The CD clocks in at 78:20 - enough extra stuff to justify buying this album again if you already had the original CD reissue (I didn't - seems it's been out of print for years).


* Stuck In A Hole (single version) (3:11)

Well, this is longer than the album version by 3 seconds, but I personally can't tell the difference. For completists only.

* Keeping Back My Love (5:15)

This one sounds vaguely familiar... doesn't it? In fact this is an early version of "Behind You" from Better By Far, with completely different lyrics. This is an outtake from the earliest sessions for Cunning Stunts, in August 1974, so it has David Sinclair and Mike Wedgwood on keyboards and bass respectively, rather than Jan Schelhaas and Dek Messecar, but other than that the performance is largely similar (an exception being the synth solos, played here by Richardson on viola and, later in the track, Sinclair on organ). All in all, an extreme example of how Caravan songs are first and foremost tunes, with lyrics often an afterthought - or a set of words that can later be dropped altogether in favour of something else.

* For Richard (live at Fairfield Hall 1974) (18:33)

Fans of The Best Of Caravan Live, rejoice - this is the best you can expect at this time as far as a CD reissue of this album is concerned. The legal situation surrounding this double-LP, a French-only release from 1980, is quite complex (although I understand there is hope for an eventual reissue), but this excerpt, which had appeared some four years earlier on the original Canterbury Tales compilation, is free for Decca to use and appears here in pristine digital sound quality. This concert, one of the first played with Mike Wedgwood in the line-up, arguably captures Caravan at its peak, so let's hope the remainder follows... The spoken introduction by Geoff is quite hilarious. [Note: Since this review was written, The Best Of Caravan Live has been reissued as Live At Fairfield Hall 1974]